I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned that Arkham Asylum originally appeared in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, many of which were set in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts (loosely based on Salem).
Well, Bob, it just so happened that a couple of SOMEONEs did…
Denny O’Neil will confirm he took the name “Arkham Asylum” from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep.” But did you know Lovecraft himself was inspired by an actual asylum in Danvers, Massachusetts?
Shortly before he wrote “Doorstep,” Lovecraft passed through Danvers en route to Cape Anne, passing the unmistakable spectacle of Danvers State Mental Hospital. Sprawling across hundreds of acres, the asylum stood as the largest mental institution in the New World. Many have wondered why architects designed it also to stand as the *scariest building* in the New World! Now derelict, Danvers State serves as the setting for the recent horror film “Session Nine,” in which the asylum tortures the four men who clear it of asbestos.
In the eighteenth century, Danvers had been known as “Salem Village,” the site of the infamous witch trials. It changed names, ceding from the greater township of Salem, but it could not escape Lovecraft’s fascination for its history. His fictional city of Arkham is in large part his analogue for Salem.
And now the rest of the story:
I grew up two miles from Danvers State. My aunt was a psychiatric nurse there, and my uncle an inmate. After the hospital closed down, my friend and I used to sneak onto the grounds late at night to smoke pot and drink beer. He later spent three years in a much nicer mental hospital in New Hampshire – the same three years I spent working for Marty Pasko!
< Twilight Zone theme>
You sound well! Here’s hoping it continues!
— Mike Brisbois
…What you didn’t know is HOW Denny got the idea. Denny had been a guest speaker at my comics history class at the Philadelphia College of Art. At dinner after class, I suggested the idea to him (after having just read a huge collection of Lovecraft stories). Using the idea in his story, Denny gave me a tip of the O’Neil hat — you’ll note that a villain in the story (who helps Two-Face escape Arkham) is named “John Harris.” My first comic credit and my first creative contribution.
–Jack C. Harris
MORE FROM THE EMAILBOX:
I understand that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee didn’t create the Fantastic Four. Their FF stories were based on the actual Cold War adventures of Johnny and Sue Sturm (and two companions).
However, apparently, only people born before 1961 are aware of the “real” fantastic four on whom the comic book characters were based.
Why is this fantastic story only now being told?
I also understand that X-Men writer Len Wein plays Solid Snake. I can’t find a picture or bio on him. Could you send me a helpful website please?
This fantastic story of the “real” Fantastic Four is only being told now because someone just dreamed it up.
As for Len playing Solid Snake, Mr. Wein, I know you’re out there. Would you care to respond?
I remember, from an *old* collection of “Shazam! Captain Marvel” stories (it was hardback, and printed in the seventies), that the Cap villain IBAC’s name was an acronym — but I don’t remember what it stood for! I remember Ivan the Terrible, and I believe Attila the Hun — but not the others. Help! Please!
Ivan (the Terrible), (Cesare) Borgia, Attila (the Hun) and Caligula. One has to wonder if they thought up the name first or the list of evil characters that contributed to the acronym.
What comic strip character rights were sold for $130 in 1938?
I love when people send me the questions from some trivia contest they are trying to enter.
For all of you who might not know this answer, $130 is what Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got paid for the first Superman story that appeared in ACTION COMICS #1. By endorsing the check in order to cash it, they were also signing a statement giving all rights to the company that is now DC Comics. The practice of tying the rights to the endorsement of the check continued well into the 1970s.
Where can I get a copy of the 1977 Super DC Calendar and the 1978 Calendar of Super Spectacular Disasters?
You’re not going to go for the hat trick and also get the 1976 calendar, too? In any case, I’d suggest eBay or one of the other auction sites.
By the way, the 1978 calendar was written by yours truly.
Superman’s arch-foe Bizarro was made of what? Flesh? Metal? Stone? Liquid?
I believe “inorganic material” is the term usually used. Indestructible inorganic matter, I’d say.
Is there somewhere I can get a list of all the books that tied into famous DC Crisis? Any chance DC will reprint all these issues in a companion volume?
Thanks to Russ Anderson and Luke Walcher at Tomorrow’s Heroes, you can find a list of all the tie-in titles for CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (and 66 other DC and Marvel crossovers) at
Comic Crossovers. You can find in-depth information about many of the crossovers at Mitchell Brown’s excellent Unofficial Comics Crossover Index.
Is there any book/trade paperback aside from the SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER: THE TARANTULA wherein I could get my Golden Age Sandman fix?
— JMX (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Well, you could track down the seventy issues of the SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER monthly comic book that ran from 1993 till 1999.
I have my sister’s collection of 40 year old Archie comics she is now stone broke. How can I find the value and a buyer?
…I recently opened an old box in storage. Inside were a couple of comics called TEENAGE LOVE STORY. Could tell me much they are worth?
— Dylan (WSLOVELINE@HOTMAIL.COM)
…What ever happened to Katy Keene and can I get copies of some comics somewhere?
…I’d like to know where to begin searching in order to have my books appraised.
— Ennis Smith (email@example.com)
The market for old Archie comic books and romance comics seems to be quite small. You guys might want to track down a local comics dealer or try selling them on eBay or another auction site.
Copies of KATY KEENE, possibly one of the best-known of the “girls’ comics,” would most likely be found in one of those two places as well.
And having your books appraised? Find a local dealer, contact one of the major dealers – they advertise in COMICS BUYER’S GUIDE, etc. – or get a copy of the Overstreet Price Guide and do it yourself.
Do you know what’s happened with the Valiant/Acclaim properties? Are there any plans you know about for their return? Or can you not tell me anything due to legal reasons?
— Etienne (firstname.lastname@example.org
…What company owns the rights to the old Atlas/Seaboard characters of the mid-70’s?
— Mark Allen (email@example.com)
I have no idea whether the people with the rights to these properties have any plans for them. I can’t tell you who these people are, not for legal reasons, but simply because I don’t know.
THE JOHN WELLS DEPARTMENT:
Once again, I’ve asked my official unofficial researcher John Wells for some help with questions. Here are two more of his answers…
What the name of the guy in “Smilin’ Jack” comics who was so fat that his shirt buttons were always popping off & a chicken would eat them.
That would be Fat Stuff, a native of a Pacific island who spoke in fractured English and whom Jack met while trapped in the Death Rock prison in late 1938 and early 1939. Coming in at the end of that story was the other great supporting character of Zack Mosely’s strip: Downwind Jaxon. The womanizing pilot was so good-looking that Mosely always drew him from a side angle or otherwise used artistic tricks to conceal his face.
In the first issue of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, we find out that the Samaritan’s secret identity is Asa Martin, an anagram of Samaritan. Is there a precedent for anagrammatical secret identities in comics, or is this a one-off?
I’ve run this question past a number of people — including Kurt himself — and the consensus seems to be that the Samaritan/Asa Martin bit really is one of a kind. Anagrams have a long history in comics as aliases for various heroes and villains but none of them seem to be their actual alter egos. A multitude of civilian names evoke their alter ego — Some of the better known instances would include Mon-El’s covert return to the Legion of Super-Heroes as Legionnaire Lemon in late 1962’s ADVENTURE COMICS #305. One of the most memorable recurring characters of the 1960s was Lena Thorul, whose parents had changed their name to hide the fact that they were the parents of the notorious Lex Luthor (late 1960’s LOIS LANE #23). In WORLD’S FINEST #262 (1980), E. Nelson Bridwell revealed that the young Shazam had once transformed himself into a hero called the Champion using the magic word Vlarem, an anagram of Marvel. And every fan of the Simpsons knows that Bart is an anagram of brat.
That will do it for this week. While you’re waiting for a new column here, don’t forget my daily Anything Goes Trivia at http://www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
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Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.