McGinnis: ‘Comic Book Legends Revealed’ hits milestoneWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Was Spider-Man’s new suit inspired by a fan’s suggestion? Did a famous comic book artist really curse his former boss subliminally in a story? Did Superman always stand for “truth, justice and the American way?”
Yes, yes and no. (The “American way” part was added when the ’50’s TV series debuted.) These questions and many, many others have been addressed on a weekly basis by writer Brian Cronin since 2005.
In the world of comic fans, Cronin stands as the ultimate mythbuster. For more than five years, he has written the wildly popular column “Comic Book Legends Revealed” for the website Comics Should Be Good. He recently passed installment No. 300. Multiply that by his average of three legends a week, and the sheer number of urban legends and myths he has confirmed or debunked for comic fans is staggering.
“It is a great feeling,” Cronin said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “An interesting aspect of it all is the way that round numbers like this really serve as sort of ‘signposts’ in your life. It’s been almost six years of doing this column, and it is sometimes interesting to look back and think about all the things in my life that have changed since I began writing the column in June of 2005.”
Though he’d been a comic fan almost his whole life, the “Legends” column began almost by accident. He had been writing for the “Good” website and had composed a piece on comic creators and their fondness for certain characters.
“I repeated a ‘fact’ I had seen many times about the great Walter Simonson. As it turned out, the ‘fact’ I repeated was baloney,” Cronin said. “Simonson wrote me, very nicely, to tell me it was, in fact, bogus. It occurred to me that there were lots of those stories out there and it would make for a fun column to explore the truth behind the stories.”
He has been on that beat ever since, covering questions on characters ranging from the iconic (Batman, Hulk) to the obscure (Blok, Funnyman). Nothing is too little-known or too big to have not attracted a story of some sort. Cronin estimates he gets 10 or so suggestions for his column a week, and once fans send them his way, he has numerous ways to determine the validity of each.
“The easiest ones are the ones where I can just contact the comic book creator involved in the legend and get an answer. The harder ones I’ll file away until I come across a good enough source to give me a reasonable answer. I have compiled a fairly sizable collection of comic book history books that aid in this endeavor, but I’ll also go to the library if I don’t have the resources to get an answer. Often, a legend I deemed ‘too hard to answer’ in, say, 2007, will have a readily available answer in 2011.”
One of the side benefits of working on such a column is the ability to make connections in the art form — as Cronin has done with those in the industry while he’s tracked down stories during the past half-decade.
“One thing that I’ve really tried to do with the column is only to tell interesting stories about comic history that don’t involve giving creators a hard time over past incidents. And I’d like to think that creators understand that, so they have been quite receptive over the years. I mean, sure, occasionally creators won’t respond at all, but that’s to be expected. No one has ever responded negatively, though.”
The work on “Comic Book Legends” has proven to be just a starting point for Cronin — the series has expanded to include Sports Legends (currently running in The Los Angeles Times), and he has also dabbled in Entertainment Legends. He also expanded the Comic Book column into the book “Was Superman a Spy?” released in 2009.
“The book was interesting because it was definitely written with a broader audience in mind, which worked sort of perfectly because of the new legends featured in the book. A few of them were stories that were perhaps too well-known for me to use on the website, but would work perfectly for a more mainstream audience.”
So does Cronin ever worry he’ll run out of myths to discuss?
“I was worried that I was going to run out of legends after the fourth column, almost six years ago! I thought I maybe had 12 legends to tell, period! I’ve since discovered that in any sort of creative industry that has lasted over seven decades, there will always be interesting stories to tell — and figure out if they’re actually true!”
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.