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Comic Book Legends Revealed #439

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COMIC LEGEND: A Rugrats character was banned from the Rugrats comic strip because of complaints by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

STATUS: True

Rugrats, a long-running Nickelodeon show about a group of precocious young kids, was notable for its time for how much the show embraced the Jewish heritage of the main characters, the Pickles (their young son, Tommy, is the star of the series).

There was even a special Rugrats Chanukah episode in 1996…

courtesy Nickelodeon tv - Rugrats (Channukah episode)

So for the most part, Jewish organizations were quite pleased with Rugrats. However, one exception happened with regards to the characters of Boris, Tommy’s grandfather…

250px-Boris_Kropotkin

For a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rugrats had its own comic strip. One of the strips in 1998 had Boris and Tommy at a synagogue with Boris reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.

borisstrip

Here was the problem. If you knew the show in question, you would know that EVERYbody on the show was drawn in exaggerated fashion. But people reading their local Sunday funnies would not necessarily be people who knew the show, so to some people, Boris looked like a grotesque parody of what a Jewish person looked like.

To that extent, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying as much and that they were offended that he was, in effect, ruining the solemnity of the prayer by having this grotesque parody recite it.

Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon (who produced the strip), apologized and banned the character of Grandpa Boris from ever appearing in the strip again, although he continued to appear on the TV series (and its sequel, where the kids grow up a bit) until it ended.

This is an interesting story of how context is key for a whole lot of things, including whether something is offensive. Former Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht was shocked and dismayed at how anyone could take offense to the character, but I think it is fair to note that if you know the character just from the cartoon it is a whole other context.

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Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed ALSO involving controversial comic strips!

Like the Mickey Mouse comic strip where Mickey tries different ways to kill himself!

Or whether a British comic strip celebrated D-Day by having its lead female character get naked for the first time!

Or how about the tale of how DC editors felt that Joe Shuster was drawing Superman “too gay” in the comic strips?

What about the Popeye comic strip artist who was fired over strips about abortion?

Was there seriously a stock market scam that used the comic strip Bringing Up Father to deliver coded messages?

Was the very first daily comic strip really canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it obscene?
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On the next page, did Doctor Doom’s mask debut before Doctor Doom?

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36 Comments

Judging by the characters’ smiles and jovial look I’d say this would more likely be the Half-Kaddish, which is (at least at my synagogue) sang rather than recited like the Mourners’ Kaddish is.

You just know that, if John Byrne were still working at Marvel, he’d find some way to explain that the monster in the iron mask was tied to Doom somehow.

When I first saw Tales of Suspense #31 (probably about 1990), I thought the Monster in the Iron Mask looked a lot like Ookla the Mok from Thundarr the Barbarian.

(Those early 1960s monster/weird stories are AWESOME!)

So what *was* the secret of the Monster in the Iron Mask? How did that one end?

I’m not too familiar with how the production codes worked at Marvel at that time, but it appears the two books were probably produced within a month of each other, but that’s if the codes were assigned when Kirby actually turned them in. The other possibility, if production numbers were assigned when the book was published is that that monster story could have been an old inventory issue that laid around for a while and coincidently was published at the same time. Again, I think an expert on early Marvel would know more than I. I lean more towards Brian’s explanation though…

Travis Stephens

October 4, 2013 at 10:03 am

Funny. I think Stan Lee wanted the Juggernaut to be Professor X’s real brother, and not his evil step-brother. However, he got stuck on the Cain Marko name. Stan had a fascination with the Marko name (e.g. Sandman, Man Mountain Marko). The only way he could work it out was for them to be step brothers.

Travis Stephens

October 4, 2013 at 10:08 am

Actually I read the whole Marko thing in one of those ’70′s. Marvel Mags. If I can find it, I will let Brian know.

“how much the show embraced the Jewish heritage of the main characters, the Pickles”

The Pickles were a mixed marriage.

You just know that, if John Byrne were still working at Marvel, he’d find some way to explain that the monster in the iron mask was tied to Doom somehow.

I feel like that’s too much even for Byrne. Roy Thomas on the other hand…

Crud. Now I’m worried that someone, somewhere, someday, will want to follow-up on Stan’s abandoned idea that Xavier and Magneto were brothers.

I think people are way too thin-skinned about stereotypes. But I’m Irish, so I’m drunk and have been punched in the head a lot, so what do I know.

So what *was* the secret of the Monster in the Iron Mask? How did that one end?

SPOILER WARNING!!

I was just about to post this, but I didn’t want to ruin it for people who might want to dig it up. But since you asked …

IT’S NOT A MASK!!! IT’S HIS REAL FACE!!!!

There’s another Jack Kirby one I know of where in 1957 he drew a story about Thor where Loki stole his hammer and forced him to live on earth until he found it. The twist, it was in Tales of the Unexpected for DC comics.

Not really adding anything to the conversation, I know, but I have always loved Superman’s comment on the cover of Supergirl’s first appearance – mostly the “uh.” Since he is, you know, currently FLYING – is seeing a girl flying that odd of a sight? So I always read that “uh” to be Supes’ thinking, “Wow, that came out totally wrong and sounded sexist! How can I cover that up? I know, I’ll pretend I think she’s an illusion!”

The Pickles were a mixed marriage.

True, but they have a Jewish heritage even if they are a mixed marriage. They have a Christian heritage as WELL, but they still do have a Jewish heritage.

I’m not too familiar with how the production codes worked at Marvel at that time, but it appears the two books were probably produced within a month of each other, but that’s if the codes were assigned when Kirby actually turned them in. The other possibility, if production numbers were assigned when the book was published is that that monster story could have been an old inventory issue that laid around for a while and coincidently was published at the same time. Again, I think an expert on early Marvel would know more than I. I lean more towards Brian’s explanation though…

The job numbers were assigned when the job was turned in, so the two stories were turned in very close to each other. I did a legend a few years back where I discussed how Marvel used inventory stories. The inventory stories all had the codes from when they were turned in (sometimes years before they were published).

So was the talk about his iron mask and his weakness a trick? Or was he, as they often did back then, filling in the puny humans on how to defeat his evil self?
There’s a great bad-memory story in “Faster and Furiouser,” a book on the AIP movies: Roger Corman was looking to do another Edgar Allan Poe film and told his assistant it was going to be based on The Black Cat. “Uh, boss, you did that last month in Trilogy of Terror.” As the author notes, that’s a good reason not to assume Corman’s memory of events is spot-on.
I don’t think Juggie is necessarily a deal-breaker on Professor X. It could easily be one of those separated-at-birth things like Magneto discovering who his children are. Or it could have been a half-thought rather than intent (“I want to get into the Professor’s past, his family–would Magneto be good? Nah, I’ll come up with someone new.”). I’m not sure it does fit his storytelling style–the only other reveal of that sort I can think of by Stan was Mike Murdock, and he was a fake. But if I’m forgetting something, I’m sure someone will point it out.

His iron mask was to trick the humans into not trying to use his only weakness against him – gas!

Why, of course, didn’t he just bring an actual gas mask is beyond me.

The whole thing comes together with an all-time classic panel (when a stage magician figures out that the alien is using misdirection to convince people that he is wearing a mask)…

“Just like that guy said!”

I’ve always found that “A Great 3-Part Novel” tagline on the prototype-Supergirl cover to be inexplicably hilarious.

Ah, thanks.

I miss stories in which some random dude holds the secret to salvation. Some hobo with night terrors could be your savior.

That’s going to be the next fortune cookie I get, I just know it. “Some hobo with night terrors could be your savior.”

“Some hobo with night terrors could be your savior.”

Yeah, the Second Coming has been a lot rougher on Jesus than expected.

The Rugrats Chanukah special had one of my favorite Jewish jokes on tv. The kids knock over a man in a dreidel costume and he says that he broke a shin.

it’s crazy that the jews took offence on how the grandpa character looked like.
the cartoon was produced by jews too, wasnt it?
no sense of humour.

I’d seen that cover to Tales of Suspense before but never saw any interior pages. On the cover, the character even wears a green costume

“However, he got stuck on the Cain Marko name. Stan had a fascination with the Marko name”

I understand that the name Cain Marko is a refence to the Mark of Cain, what is a good name for an evil brother, but totally wasted in the case of Juggernaut, because the “brother” thing was not so explored. It would fit better in Cassandra Nova.

HoosierX wrote:
“When I first saw Tales of Suspense #31 (probably about 1990), I thought the Monster in the Iron Mask looked a lot like Ookla the Mok from Thundarr the Barbarian.”

Which is likely since KIRBY himself WAS the artist/designer for THUNDARR the BARBARIAN cartoon.

Miguelito Hotito

October 5, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I just showed that Monster in the Iron Mask panel to my three year old son and asked him who it was…
he said “It’s Doctor Doom!”

Out of the mouths of babes…

@Mr. Speck:
I believe that “three-part novel” was the term used for a comic that was all one story, instead of three shorter stories, which was the standard at the time.
It fell out of use once full length stories became the norm.

Travis Stephens

October 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Apokoliptian

I’m not so sure what Stan Lee had on mind when he formulated the concept of the Juggernaut and his background.Juggernaut may have been intended as a “one off ” character with the morality play of Cain and Abel as feuding brothers built in.

However, it doesn’t explain the 6 or 7 uses of Marko as a name.

Which is likely since KIRBY himself WAS the artist/designer for THUNDARR the BARBARIAN cartoon.

While he worked on it, he didn’t design Ookla.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2006/11/23/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-78/

Other than the pre-MU monsters that were later brought into the MU (eg, Fin Fang Foom) are any of the supposed pro-hero ‘prototypes’ really valid?

The only one that springs to mind is the alien Sandman from JIM #70 and even that’s a bit of a stretch…

Professor X being in love with Jean was brought back up in the 90s in the “Onslaught” event.

And it was just as creepy then…even moreso now with All New X-Men highlighting how young the O5 are. It was also a plot point in Ultimate X-Men before most of them were unceremoniously killed off.

As to someone picking up on Stan’s idea of making Xavier and Magneto brothers, I wouldn’t put it past Bendis to do just that…he’s all about the shock value…which is why young Cyclops and X-23 are making out on an upcoming cover (which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that it’s essentially like having Cyclops and Wolverine hook up).

One of the first X-Men comics I picked up (not the first, but maybe among the first twelve or so) was a reprinting of X-Men #3 (X-Men: The Early Years #3) and I’ve been suspicious of Professor X ever since! But… who doesn’t love Jean.

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