The incredible exploits of comic book superheroes have thrilled readers for over 80 years. The fantastic characters and earthshaking storylines continue to fascinate and amaze new generations of fans, and in recent years this wealth of mythic material has also helped revitalize the movie industry.
But sometimes the most intriguing stories take place behind the scenes - in the lives of the men and women connected to the industry, and in the strange circumstances and fateful events which have shaped the history of the comic book.
Rivalries and strange alliances. Threats, lawsuits and broken promises. Crazy connections and weird quirks of fate. All these factors have contributed to the growth of comics and the success of superheroes.
Here are the often weird truths about comic books and their creators, exposing long-held misconceptions and revealing some all-but-forgotten firsts - seven more of the craziest, coolest and, often, most ironic connections - from more than three-quarters of a century of comic book publishing.
7. The FBI's Long Hatred Of Comic Books
In 1951 the FBI investigated the comics industry. They took issue not only with the popular horror comics of the time, but also with crime comics. The bureau felt the lurid violence depicted in horror comics resulted in increased juvenile delinquency.
But Hoover personally disliked crime comics because he didn't appreciate their more exciting and romanticized depiction of law enforcement agents, and in particular, of the FBI. This dislike originated as early as 1935, when Hoover criticized the Great American newspaper comic strip adventures of Dick Tracy and Secret Agent X-19.
Hoover wanted to set the record straight, so in 1936 he created his own comic strip to depict the true workings of the Bureau. It was called "War on Crime!" And it was, to be blunt, boring. Readers mostly ignored it in favor of Dick Tracy's encounters with colorful villains like Prune Face and Flat Top; "super villains" who helped to inspire the writers of Batman when they dreamed up such mainstays as the Joker and Two-Face.
Later, the Bureau's contempt of comics grew, when W.M. Gaines' Mad Magazine waged a funny book war with the FBI by satirizing their boss Hoover. The Bureau sent the publisher a memo to "firmly and severely admonish Gaines... concerning our displeasure!"
Bill Gaines responded with another Mad parody featuring "the Honorable J. Edgar Electrolux." The FBI quickly countered with yet another memo - only this time, it was an internal memo. After losing this particular war on "crime," the Bureau wrote that it was "useless to protest... to a magazine of this poor judgment and capriciousness."
Tom English is an environmental chemist who loves reading comics, watching movies, and writing stories both weird and wonderful. His fiction has appeared in several print anthologies, including CHALLENGER UNBOUND (KnightWatch Press, 2015), GASLIGHT ARCANUM: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes (Edge SF and Fantasy) and DEAD SOULS (Morrigan Books). Tom also edited the mammoth BOUND FOR EVIL: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad, which was a 2008 Shirley Jackson Award finalist for best anthology. Among his non-fiction books is DIET FOR DREAMERS, a collection of inspirational stories featuring everything from Stan Lee to Sherlock Holmes to Slinky Toys. Tom resides with his wife, Wilma, surrounded by books and beasts, deep in the woods of New Kent, Virginia.