A lot of shit happens in comic books, and a lot of shit happens in real life, so every once in a while they're bound to coincide, right?
That still doesn't explain some of the freaky stuff comics have gotten right. Like...
#6. The Top-Secret Creation of the Atomic Bomb
A Superman comic from 1945 showed Lex Luthor creating an outlandish new device to instigate chaos in the city of Metropolis.
"I could probably sell it to the military for a TON of money, but $100 says I do something CRAZY with it!"
That's the plot of like half the comics Lex Luthor appears in -- the difference this time was that Luthor's crazy invention, an "atomic bomb," was actually in the works in the real world.
Set to run in late 1944, almost exactly a year before the world found out what an atomic bomb was in a big way.
While the comic was being written, scientists were secretly working on the first A-bomb. To maintain the secrecy of the project, the Defense Department ordered DC Comics to pull the story. Yes, apparently, the Pentagon feared the Japanese might see the comic, go, "Holy shit what if that's a real thing?!" and then build anti-nuclear domes around all their cities. Or something.
This was, more or less, their line of thinking.
Now the government, being the government, didn't tell the folks at DC why specifically they wanted the comic pulled. For all DC knew, the comic was pulled because J. Robert Oppenheimer was secretly working on a Superman. They wouldn't even learn for another year that a real atomic bomb was being developed, and even then, the similarities between the real A-bomb and Luthor's weren't exactly obvious.
This was probably never a rough draft of the A-bomb.
It Gets Creepier:
We mentioned that DC Comics had no idea what it had done wrong ... and that's exactly why, a few months later, they did it again. An ongoing storyline in the Superman newspaper strip showed a skeptical physics professor blasting Superman with a cyclotron (a type of particle accelerator) to find out if he's really as invulnerable as he says.
"Man, we just used school funds to blast an alien full of our most powerful lasers; I'll give you the whole fucking university if you keep quiet about this."
This was in April 1945, only four months before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the Manhattan Project had reached such a critical stage that anything related to atomic energy was being censored by the government. But because of the daily nature of the comic strip, by the time the secret service contacted DC Comics, the first few chapters had already been sent to several newspapers across the country. It was too late to stop them from printing the strips, and that is why today we live in a world ruled by the Nazis.
Actually, no, somehow the Japanese weren't tipped off by the mention of atomic energy in a Superman strip, presumably because they were too distracted preparing defense mechanisms against Popeye and those sleeper agents in Family Circus. Still, the Secret Service forced DC to abort the ongoing cyclotron story line. So, instead of, you know, going anywhere with the whole pre-existing atomic energy story line, the comic ended when Superman abruptly decided to play a game of baseball with himself.
So, within a period of a few months, two different writers working on the same character got in trouble with the government for accidentally trying to spoil the same super-secret government project -- and one of them actually did it. The War Department asked DC to monitor its own comics from then on, ignoring the fact that at that point, DC would've needed Level 1 access to the Pentagon to know what it was they couldn't have Superman do.
#5. The Challenger Disaster
In 1986, Canadian comic book artist John Byrne wrote and drew a miniseries called The Man of Steel, drastically updating the Superman mythos for the 80's generation.
He now wears sneakers!!!
In the first issue, Superman was supposed to make his public debut by saving a NASA space shuttle from crashing in the middle of Metropolis.
And this is where it gets weird: We said Superman was "supposed" to save the NASA shuttle because, while Byrne was finishing drawing the issue, this happened:
On January 28, 1986, NASA's space shuttle Challenger malfunctioned and fell apart shortly after launching, killing everyone in its crew. It would've been slightly cruel (and grossly inaccurate) to show Superman effortlessly preventing a real-life tragedy so shortly after it happened, so Byrne quickly redrew the pages depicting the shuttle, replacing it with an "experimental space-plane."
So... a shuttle?
Of course, since the pages were redrawn before anyone else could see them, Byrne has no way of proving he really did have a space shuttle in there. But think about it ... why the hell would anyone draw this thing in the first place?
That seriously looks like something any editor would've sent back with a note saying "C'mon -- draw a proper-looking spaceship this time, dammit," if the comic had been published in any other year.
It Gets Creepier:
The reason Superman was going to save the shuttle in the first place was because -- you guessed it -- Lois Lane was on board. She was the only non-astronaut on board; a regular journalist covering the story of this amazing, experimental space-plane, and she would've died, had Superman not intervened.
For those too young to remember, the reason we were all glued to our TVs when the Challenger went down was because the crew included Christa McAuliffe, who a) wasn't an astronaut and b) was on every major talk and late-night show before the craft took off. She was a teacher and was the first to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space program.
That's right: the only thing the comic got wrong was the exact profession of the female non-astronaut guest who was on board during the accident.
#4. The 1977 New York Blackout
Marvel likes to brag that its comics about superpowered men in tights are way more realistic than DC's comics about superpowered men in tights, starting with the fact that Marvel's are based in real cities, mostly New York. But, readers who picked up this 1977 issue of Spider-Man might have thought it was a little too realistic.
It's not because of the little woman with bug wings, we'll tell you that right now.
In the comic, Spider-Man and The Wasp battle Equinox, a villain capable of shooting fire from his arms. As the villain rampages through New York, starting random fires and roughing up police officers, one of his stray blasts hits a building, short-circuiting the power transformer inside and causing a massive blackout in the city.
"I know, that was a joke. That's my thing, I joke in dangerous situations. Try to keep up."
There hadn't been a blackout in NYC since 1965 and there wouldn't be another one until 2003, so this was a huge coincidence. If you look at the cover, it says "August," because comics are usually released a month or two ahead of the cover date. And even if the comic had come out in August, it still would have needed to be finished several months earlier, meaning they couldn't have possibly known about the blackout when they wrote it.
Unlike the other two blackouts, the one from 1977 resulted in city-wide looting, arson and more than 500 injured police officers. Unfortunately, NY citizens picking up this comic for a little light-hearted escapism saw the exact same thing thing that was taking place all around them -- the comic predicted the city wide black out would cover the streets in flames, with police officers fighting for their lives.
The only upside is that, since the lights were out, most people probably couldn't read shit.
It Gets Creepier:
Another important point is that the artist who drew this issue wasn't even from New York. In fact, at the time he lived in Canada. His name is John Byrne ... the same guy who would go on to write and draw the Superman comic with the NASA shuttle.
I'm your fortune teller or, alternately, an IT guy.
But we're not sure if that really counts as a coincidence -- we wouldn't be surprised if his precognitive abilities are what landed him the job on Superman in the first place.