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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #446

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Welcome to the four hundred and forty-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 forty-five. This week, did Mort Weisinger really use a Bizarro World comic to out John F. Kennedy’s affair with Marilyn Monroe? Was a major part of Wolverine’s history originally going to be revealed in an issue of Captain America? And was Jack Kirby’s Fourth World always going to be an ongoing series?

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: Mort Weisinger alluded to the alleged John F. Kennedy/Marilyn Monroe affair in a Superboy comic book story.

STATUS: I’m Tentatively Going With a True

Longtime Superman editor Mort Weisinger was a big supporter of the Democratic party in the United States. Here he is (courtesy of Jim Shooter’s blog, from a photo Weisinger gave to Shooter at some point) with two-time United States Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson…

weisingeradlaistevenson

Weisinger was also quite plugged into political gossip (as well as gossip in general) of the time. During the 1950s, while not working at DC Comics (his DC Editorial position was a three days a week gig), he worked at the gossip magazine Inside Story, repackaging gossip stories from other magazines (At the always excellent Comics Detective website, Ken Quattro has an “obituary” that William Woolfolk wrote for Alter Ego when Mort Weisinger died that Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails ultimately decided was too harsh for publication – the obituary has more information about Weisinger’s time at Inside Story). By the time the 1960s rolled around, Weisinger was doing similar work for This Week magazine, a magazine that was inserted into newspapers around the country…

thisweek

A very popular rumor for well over fifty years now is that President John F. Kennedy (who was assassinated fifty years ago today) and Marilyn Monroe had an affair beginning sometime in 1961 after her divorce from writer Arthur Miller. While the affair has been wildly accepted as being true by the public as a whole, we still do not seem to have much in the way of proof that there was an actual relationship between the pair. However, whether they were or were not romantically involved, it is fair to say that there were RUMORS about the two being involved in 1962, especially following Marilyn Monroe’s iconic performance of “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at a Democratic fundraiser in New York City in April of 1962 (Monroe passed away in August of 1962).

For someone who was…

A. Such a big Kennedy admirer (as others have noted, President Kennedy appeared enough in the Superman comics of the era that he was practically a supporting cast member!) and
B. So plugged into the gossip scene

there is little chance that Weisinger did not know of the Kennedy/Monroe rumors well before the rest of the world in the spring of 1962.

Therefore, it puts the following story from the March 1962 cover-dated issue of Adventure Comics #294 (a March cover date in those days likely meant the book was actually on sale in December of the previous year) into a fascinating context.

In the story (written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Forte), set on Bizarro World (a world made up of duplicates of Superman and Lois Lane, only they would do everything in reverse – so instead of saying “Hello” they’d say “Goodbye”), we see Bizarro Halloween, which involves Bizarros dressing up as humans and going around “pranking” their neighbors by doing good deeds for each other. The story eventually becomes a Bizarro Krypto story, as Bizarro Krypto gets so angry at the pranks that he tries to find a new owner, which is the gist of the story (Bizarro Krypto tries out alternate owners). But at the beginning, it involves Bizarros dressed as four famous figures of the time – John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle and Jerry Lewis.

bizarrojfk1

bizarrojfk2

bizarrojfk3

As you can see from above, the Kennedy Bizarro Superman and the Monroe Bizarro Lois were paired together often early in the story.

The great longtime comic book editor Mike Gold wrote about the story a couple of years ago at his neat column at ComicMix (the website he co-founded and is currently the editor-in-chief of).

Gold is fairly confident that Weisinger did intend for the story to be a sly reference to the Kennedy/Monroe affair and even had the chance to ask Weisinger about it in 1976 (Weisinger died two years later). Here’s Gold:

[W]e flash-forward to 1976. DC President Sol Harrison thought it would be cool if I met Mort Weisinger because of our mutual interest in politics. Mort and I had a fascinating conversation that ran about two-and-one-half hours. I asked him about the Bizarro Marilyn / Bizarro JFK story. At first I thought I made him angry, but his broad facial gesture turned into a huge laugh. “You know, you’re the only guy to ask me that!” And that was his only response.

I tend to believe the Gold is correct and the story WAS intended to be a sly reference to the rumored affair. However, obviously with Weisinger, Siegel and Forte all long since passed away, I don’t think this will ever be more than a “tentative true,” as clearly there is a chance that Siegel just picked four random famous people to use in the story. If it weren’t for today’s date, I likely wouldn’t have featured the story period (which was suggested to me some time ago by reader Tony N.), but I couldn’t help myself with the timing of this week’s CBLR being on November 22nd.

Thanks to Tony for the suggestion and thanks to Mike Gold for the fascinating story!
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Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

How Did the Graduate Inadvertently Lead to Animal House Being Filmed at the University of Oregon?

Did Old Crow Medicine Show Co-Write a Song With Bob Dylan, Separated by 30 Years?

Did a Typo Lead to the Title of the Bond Film Tomorrow Never Dies?

Was the First Movie Vampire With Fangs Not Until the 1950s?
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On the next page, did we nearly learn a major part of Wolverine’s history in the pages of Captain America a DECADE before it was finally revealed in the pages of Uncanny X-Men?

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39 Comments

Jack Kirby a.k.a. comic book Nostradamus.

Will your legend deal with whether Hunger Dogs was Kirby’s original ending or close to it? The idea of Orion finding love, telling Daddy “Forget the final battle crap” and leaving Darkseid alone on Apokalips is rather startlingly at odds with the old series, though in a good way (i.e., I like it). If anyone else had done it I suspect we’d have screams about how the author clearly didn’t get Kirby.
“He Cheats Death! He Defies Man! No Trap Can Hold Him!”—I love that line.

At least on Mister Miracle he did wrap up the main story arc for that book, of Scott breaking free of Apokalips for good.

As much as I’d love that Kirby had finished The Fourth World the way he originally intended, I really enjoyed Hunger Dogs. The change in tone and intention from the original series show a lot about how Jack’s mindset had evolved over the 15-year period it took to conclude the story. The lack of catharsis via the final confrontation between Orion and Darkseid, The kind of disjointed narrative, the out-of-left-field twist regarding the identity of the scientist behind the “micro-mark”, on top of the pessimistic view on technological advancement make for an uncharacteristically unsettling Kirby tale, which I think is fascinating!

Okay. The most interesting thing about that Bizarro story that I *NEED* an answer for: Why do the Bizarros celebrate Halloween on May 24? (Okay–it’s “Maye 24″–according to the calendar in the picture, but still….)

A secondary matter: It’s amazing that the masks are SO horrifying to the rest of the Bizarros that the ones at the center of this story (and it’s rather interesting that there are *four*–three males and one female; could this be a bit of a jab at the FF?) can go around with just the masks and no other costuming and no one can tell who it really is. I mean, one of them actually has a sign reading “Bizarro No 1″ on him. What makes this curious to me about the sheer terror and panic these “ugly Earth people” create is that the regular Bizarros, as far as I can recall, don’t usually react with such terror or panic when they’d meet the real Superman and Supergirl (whose faces would presumably be just as terrifying and horrific as the JFK and Marilyn Monroe masks apparently are).

During the 1950s, while not working at DC Comics (his DC Editorial position was a three days a week gig), he worked at the gossip magazine Inside Story, repackaging gossip stories from other magazine

Wow. So fitting that a guy who’s main contribution to comics was recycling (creating Aquaman, a recycled Namor, Green Arrow, a recycled Batman, and recycling concepts within Superman (Supergirl, Superpets, etc) was also recycling in his career outside of comics as well.

Is Kirby’s last New Gods story part included in the Omnibus version?

is that paul heyman?

Is Kirby’s last New Gods story part included in the Omnibus version?

Yes.

I love that on Bizarro world, MATINEE PRICES ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN EVENING SHOWS! SO BIZARRE!

AverageJoeEverytman

November 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

That cover to Hunger Dogs looks so much like an 80’s He Man toy advertisement.
“Coming Soon – Darkseids evil red sled of doom. How will He-Man and friends be able to stop this rude luge of HATRED!!”

I’m not always helpful, ask my wife how long she’s been waiting for me to clear out the garage. Glad I could help here.

AverageJoeEverytman: Well, The Hunger Dogs GN did go directly into the second Super Powers limited series Kirby drew for DC, so…well….you never know :).

There’s a LOT of evidence that JFK and Marilyn had an affair. Everything from her diaries to the non-redacted portions of released CIA documents. It’s all out there, save for an actual sex tape, if that’s what it’d take to prove it to you.

GREAT column this week, though!

Mark Evanier is one of the luckiest guys in comics. He worked closely with two genius artists Sergio Aragonés and Jack Kirby. Both of these artists could draw entire layouts free form from their imaginations without any sketches.

Keith Billingsley

November 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Brian – my eyes are just to old and feeble to differentiate clearly between the the yellow characters of the Mort Weisinger obituary and the white background. Can you help?

The Fourth World Omnibus also includes the story, “Even Gods Must Die,” from the New Gods Baxter reprint series, issue #6. The story links the original Fourth World stories to Hunger Dogs, and (SPOILERS) also revives Desaad and Kalibak, who were destroyed at the end of New Gods #11, the last issue of Kirby’s series. You also get a glimpse of Orion’s mother, Tigra, whom he has come to rescue from Darkseid’s prison. If you want to read Kirby’s Fourth World work, the Omnibus editions are the way to go.

Whatever Kirby intended to do, he’d have to follow Infantino’s directions. I find the finite series idea improbable.

Whatever Kirby intended to do, he’d have to follow Infantino’s directions. I find the finite series idea improbable.

Infantino let him take over Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. I don’t believe Infantino particularly cared WHAT Kirby did, provided it sold well. I think Kirby pitched him on the finite series and it was approved but then when the initial sales were good, Infantino was like, “Are you kidding? We can’t stop this now!”

The mentioning of Kirby and toy advertisements got me thinking of a legend I never bothered questioning until now. Kenner’s Super Powers toyline featured several New Gods characters whose toys looked nothing like their comic book appearances. I’d always read that Kirby was asked to redesign his own characters. And that he earned more for doing so than for what he had for creating comics at the time.

When did “iconic” replace “memorable” or “well known” when discussing subjects? It’s gotten to the point that EVERY comics article or description of artwork HAS to be described as “iconic.” I almost feel like playing a drinking game and take a shot of tequila every time I read the word in a comics article. I’m just afraid that I will suffer alcohol poisoning before I finish the article.

Um, isn’t the “iconic” referring to the Marilyn Monroe “Happy Birthday” to JFK? Which is pretty dang iconic, and to my knowledge, wasn’t in a comic book?

Or am I missing something?

Good gravy. I just couldn’t make it through those Bizarro pages. They’re so freaking annoying.

The last legend strikes me as a bit misleading, so if it’s okay, I thought I’d throw in some more quotes from Evanier on the same subject for context. Here’s what Evanier has to say about the conception of Fourth World in the afterword of the first omnibus:

“The story, which he saw as finite at least in its initial arc, would be the war against the intergalactic villain he named Darkseid. The battle might encompass a few thousand pages before it ended, but it would end and it would end with a spectacular finale.”

Then a few sentences later:

“He initially intended to do only the first few issues, and then, as he had with many successful books of his past, hand off to others. Steve Ditko was mentioned to draw Mister Miracle, Wally Wood for Orion, John Romita or Don Heck for The Forever People. For the writing, he intended to work with new talent and to that end he had taken on two youthful assistants, myself and Steve Sherman. Jack would have supervised while (he hoped) moving on to projects in the upscale formats he was proposing. Instead, DC asked that he stick with the three titles until they’d established themselves.”

Reading these all together, it seems to me that the only indicator of finiteness in Kirby’s intent is that he had ending in mind. It’s a bit ridiculous to say “Ok, we’re going to do a limited series. It will be hundreds of issues long and I’ll give the writing and art chores over to other people after the first year.” That’s called an ongoing series in my book.

I don’t think that detracts from the legend, Cass. The key point to me was that Kirby had an end goal in mind with the plot of the series that he stopped trying to achieve because they told him that the series wasn’t going to be finite. He obviously had a big plot in mind (and yes, as you note, he initially wanted other creators to finish his plot while he did other books) and that plot was discarded when DC let him know that they weren’t going to let him end the series on his own terms.

And then, of course, they canceled the books before he had a chance to get back to the original plot he had in mind.

T – “creating Aquaman, a recycled Namor,”

Actually Aquaman is a recycled Tarzan. Think about it.

Lord of the Jungle / King of the Sea
Talks to animals / Talks to fish
Treasure hunters / Pirates
Hunters / Fisherman
Lost and hidden jungle cities / Lost and hidden underwater cities

Alabaster Alligator

November 23, 2013 at 5:50 am

KAM, the last point in your list is a dubious one. “Lost and hidden underwater cities” did not become a common plot element in Aquaman stories until the 1960s–a full twenty years after his debut. Until then he was basically just a policeman of the seas.

Also, as originally created, Aquaman wasn’t from Atlantis; he was a human being who’d been physically conditioned by his scientist father so that he could live underwater. In that respect, he’s perhaps a bit like Doc Savage.

the out-of-left-field twist regarding the identity of the scientist behind the “micro-mark”

This was actually part of his plan in the 1970s; “Cancelled Comics Cavalcade” included a never-published New Gods story that uses the same twist.

I did rather like the idea from the Baxter reprint “bridge” story that Darkseid’s resurrection power, like his machines, cannot bring back some ineffable part of the dead, and that Darkseid’s lust for power ends up making him obsolete, paranoid, and incapable of ever really believing that he’s won.

Joseph, there’s a story where Bizarro terrifies his kids with a Superman puppet. Another where he creates a monster for a horror film and it’s a stunningly handsome blond man who provokes raw terror in everyone who sees him. I admit the stories weren’t consistent (but hey, Bizarro) but the idea they find Earth people horrifying does crop up repeatedly.
While Mort Weisinger may not have created great super-heroes, his record working on Superman encompasses more than just recycling ideas.

Me hate Bizarro stories. Please give us more.

Can anyone clarify for me why KIrby was working on the Jimmy Olsen book instead of the main Superman book? Or was that the main book at the time? I would have thought getting Kirby DC would push him to the forefront. Did he have more freedom on Jimmy Olsen?

Seems like Kirby actually asked for a poor selling book because he wanted to prove that he could make a hit of whatever DC assigned him.

Alabaster Alligator

November 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The other version of that story is that Kirby asked for something that was on the verge of cancellation, so that he would not be taking someone else’s job.

Can anyone clarify for me why KIrby was working on the Jimmy Olsen book instead of the main Superman book? Or was that the main book at the time? I would have thought getting Kirby DC would push him to the forefront. Did he have more freedom on Jimmy Olsen?

Yeah, Kirby asked for a book without a creative team currently on it. At the same time, yes, I think the freedom was an attraction, as well. Plus, to be honest, DC Comics did not seem willing to let him draw their iconic characters in his own style, so that was likely part of his reasoning as well.

I don’t remember the comic, but I think it was before the X-Men issue.
I have a recollection of a scene in which Wolverine was climbing a cliff, and he mentally compared it to a name that I don’t remember, which a friend who was a WWII history buff identified as a major operation involving Canadian commandos during the war.
La Difensa, maybe. That involved the joint US/Canadian Devil’s Brigade climbing a sheer cliff to assault a German base in Italy.

Yep looks like he was onto the whole Kennedy/Monroe affair and was bragging without bragging. Not to mention finally outing the big Mickey Mantle/Jerry Lewis gay fling way before anyone knew that either.

Kirby on Jimmy Olsen produced some pretty wild stories, which took years for people to get a handle on. Really, if you look at the Fourth World stories, Jimmy Olsen has got some of the more outré ideas, but also some of the more interesting concepts. It provided a goldmine of material which was revisited in the 90s, to great effect. Then there was Goody Rickles…. I have to say that Mister Miracle is my favorite overall (though I first encountered the character in the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers revived series, in the later 70s); but, Jimmy Olsen is a very close second. Forever People has always felt the weakest, to me.

I’d rate Jimmy Olsen below Forever People, but yeah, of the main Fourth world books, Forever People was definitely the feeblest. However Glorious Godfrey and the Justifiers remain a very creepy depiction of blindly authoritarian fanatics (though it seems pretty obvious Kirby intended them as Nazi allegory). I hate that post Crisis Godfrey became some kind of super-hypnotist–Kirby’s idea that he’s just plain manipulative and his followers choose to give up their free will is creepier.

Anyone know the story reasoning for having the Black Widow in that story too, completely altering her character? Having Wolverine meet Cap makes sense as as story concept…saying the Black Widow is really old and has super powers seems like a weird throw in, that was never followed up on in X-Men and only left for people writing that character to “clear up” later.

The whole Stern-Byrne-Zeck-all the way to 300 era of Cap was a great run of contributors and stories, though. Sorry they didn’t get to do the Wolverine story first.

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