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Top 10 Comic Book Urban Legends

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler
Written by Craig Butler So listen, a friend of a friend of mine heard this, so it must be true... Welcome to, and today we’re counting down the Top 10 Comic Book Urban Legends. For this list, we’re looking at stories involving comic book characters, creators, publishers or others in the industry which have been accepted as fact – but which are actually more complicated, or just flat-out untrue. Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.

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So listen, a friend of a friend of mine heard this, so it must be true... Welcome to, and today we’re counting down the Top 10 Comic Book Urban Legends.

For this list, we’re looking at stories involving comic book characters, creators, publishers or others in the industry which have been accepted as fact – but which are actually more complicated, or just flat-out untrue.

#10: Last Minute Changes kept DC and Marvel from Swapping Characters

In 1996, one of the most fervent dreams of comic fandom was fulfilled when a 5-issue “DC vs. Marvel” series pitted characters like Superman against the Hulk and Batman against Captain America. And for a while, a new Amalgam universe was created which combined various heroes into new forms. In the end, all the DC heroes and Marvel heroes went back to their separate universes. A popular urban legend would have you believe that Daredevil and Catwoman were meant to be left on the wrong Earths, but that was changed at the last minute. The truth is there was no last minute change – the unsurmountable rights problems put a quick end to that idea early on.

#9: “The Walking Dead” Was Originally Going to Include Aliens

For quite some time, fans of the Walking Dead comics were wondering how creator Robert Kirkman was going to pull off adding aliens into the mix. Post-apocalyptic zombies are a genre unto themselves, but throwing in space aliens? Wouldn’t that be mixing realities just to keep the series fresh? But legend had it that Kirkman had indeed promised such a thing. In reality, it was all a joke made in a letter column of an early issue. Kirkman was using humor to guarantee readers he would keep the series fresh – and some must have taken the joke literally. For fun, though, he included aliens in a dream sequence as a nod to the joke and the online speculation.

#8: James Cameron Stole the Idea for “The Terminator” from ‘X-Men” Comics

In 1984’s “The Terminator,” a cyborg is sent back in time to prevent the birth of a man who would save a future world from a reign of machines. In 1981’s “Days of Future Past” X-Men story, Kitty Pryde goes back in time to prevent the killing of a man which initiates a future reign of machines. Clearly, James Cameron ripped off the idea from the X-Men and just made a few changes. Only he didn’t. Cameron, in fact, said he was influenced by two old “Outer Limits” episodes on a similar theme… which led to his being sued by the writer of those episodes, Harlan Ellison - who, coincidentally, actually penned a few X-Men stories in his career.

#7: Orson Welles Tried to Make a Batman Movie

Orson Welles, the 1940s boy wonder of the cinema, is rumored to have been working on a Batman film, way back in the 1946 - just 7 years after the Caped Crusader’s debut in 1939’s “Detective Comics” #27. The idea of Welles, who rocked the world with his movie debut “Citizen Kane,” tackling Batman truly makes a fanboy salivate. Unfortunately, this is a total hoax, created by Mark Millar for a column in CBR back in 2003 as a kind of homage to Welles’ well-known hoax radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.”

#6: Superman Spilled Real Nuclear Secrets & Got In Trouble

Superhero comics liked to be “up to date” when it came to scientific discoveries, although often the way sciences and scientific terms were used revealed that the writers didn’t always know what they were talking about. One story claims that the publishers of Superman got into trouble because one of his stories spilled nuclear secrets that could have been used by our enemies. That’s not quite the case. The story in question involved a cyclotron, an early model particle accelerator or “atom-smasher.” People in the War Department saw this, but they didn’t panic. They were actually more concerned that people wouldn’t take the technology seriously if they found out it was in a comic book!

#5: The Human Torch Was Axed from TV Because a Child Burned Himself

Have you heard the one about that kid who was such a huge fan of the Fantastic Four, he took lighter fluid and poured it on himself and then lit a match? This tragic story was passed around for years, but as far as can be determined, is simply not true. And there also is no truth to the rumor that that is why the Human Torch didn’t appear in the 1978 Fantastic Four series, where he was replaced by a robot. In fact, the reason is far less dramatic: the Human Torch had been optioned for a potential solo series which never came to pass- so he legally couldn’t be used in the cartoon series.

#4: Frank Miller Created the Term “Dark Knight”

Frank Miller’s landmark “The Dark Knight Returns” is one of the most lauded comic book series of all time. It reinvigorated Batman and established a dark, grim tone which has been influential throughout the comics worlds. But contrary to urban legend, the phrase “Dark Knight” did not originate with Miller – though the series did impact its popularity. No, the first usage of “Dark Knight” to refer to Batman actually goes all the way back to “Detective Comics” #40, published in 1940. A caption clearly identifies Batman with the nickname more than a quarter century before Miller’s series.

#3: Wonder Woman’s Creator Invented the Polygraph

One of the more enduring urban legends contains a kernel of truth. Before making his mark in comics with Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston was a teacher and psychologist, as well as an inventor. One of his inventions is the systolic blood pressure test. Marston’s wife observed that her blood pressure tended to rise when she was mad or excited. They theorized that this could be useful in determining when a person was lying, and the blood pressure test became one of the components which was used in the first polygraph or lie detector. John Augustus Larson actually created the polygraph – but he did use Marston’s test as a part of it.

#2: Batman Definitely Killed the Joker

At the end of “The Killing Joke,” the captured Joker relates a joke which causes both him and Batman to engage in hysterical laughter. The succeeding panels show less and less of the characters, with both having disappeared from the frame when the laughter finally stops. Some readers - including comics legend Grant Morrison - claim the laughter stops so abruptly because Batman has snapped the Joker’s neck. This has recently been re-interpreted as the absolute, obvious conclusion to the story, and that people had actually been misinterpreting the ending for years. However, looking at Moore’s script reveals it was always meant to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. The ending is not as cut-and-dry as some fans would have you believe.

#1: Jack Kirby Sued Marvel Comics

Jack Kirby was one of the giants of the comic book world, having had a hand in creating Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, and Thor among many, many others. Unfortunately, while Kirby was considered a legend among fans, he didn’t receive the level of monetary compensation his creatorship deserved. For years, people have talked about how Jack Kirby sued Marvel to be properly rewarded for the massive amounts of money his creations have brought in over the years. However, although Kirby considered suing on numerous occasions, he never did. It seems the King felt he’d never be able to afford the long, drawn-out legal battle that would inevitably result. After his death, however, his family felt differently.
If Augustus Larson used the systolic blood pressure test device to help realise the creation of the polygraph, then Marston's invention was the prototype, which technically makes him of the machine's legitimate creators.

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