5 Important Things You Won't Believe Comic Books Invented
Comic books consistently create worlds where men have super strength and women have scientifically impossible body proportions, which are the first two indicators to readers that they shouldn't expect to see anything remotely possible, let alone realistic, in the well-drawn pages to follow.
But just to fuck with even that most basic rule of comics, there are times in history when comic book pages splashed to life and changed the world in amazing ways or predicted the hell out of some pretty major stuff, like the time ...
Donald Duck Discovered Minecraft
Donald Duck is no stranger to inventing things, whether it be movies, scientific theories, or entire comic book genres. So none of you should be surprised to learn that he also dipped his webbed toes into the business of creating a video game world -- before video games were even invented.
Donald Duck, responsible for absolutely everything since 1934.
The game in question is Minecraft, which (for those of you who don't have 1,000 spare hours to sacrifice) is an indie game that blew up for almost inexplicable reasons in 2011. The main purposes of the game are survival, exploration, and building things out of cubes (in a world made out of cubes and as a character who is, shockingly, made out of pure anger).
It was a pretty unique idea for a game, purposely rendered in low-quality graphics, giving the virtual world a very original feel (especially for a game in 2011). And they would have really been on to something different and new if only Donald Duck hadn't done it all first back in 1949.
Actually, never mind, the smoke's not square, this is bullshit.
Donald discovered a Minecraft-like world in a story called Lost in the Andes! Donald and his nephews stumbled upon an isolated city called Plain Awful, where, like Minecraft, absolutely everything is made of blocks, including buildings, rocks, animals, and hills. Even the people are blocky and have managed to create clothes that are almost completely square, meaning that in terms of aerodynamics, they are the slowest people on Earth.
"For the love of God, move me faster; I'm literally going to shit a brick."
It's not just that things are square, though; there are weird similarities between the culture of the Donald Duck square-world and Minecraft. For example, one of the main activities in Minecraft is, well, mining, which, sure, is a little on the nose, but it's also the main pastime of the folks in Plain Awful, and where they sentence Scrooge to do hard labor after he brings a circular object into their city.
"Congratulations, you just devoted 200 hours of your life to a digital activity
that is considered a punishment in both real and Scrooge McDuck life."
Also like in Minecraft, the main source of food in Plain Awful is chickens, which are square and lay square eggs (but apparently are different enough from "ducks" that Donald and family aren't worried about being barbecued for supper). Despite the importance of chickens as a food source in both worlds, neither one feels the need to pen up the hundreds and hundreds of birds they depend on for survival, as it seems free range is just that much more delicious.
At least we hope they're only eating them ...
To be clear, we can't state conclusively that Minecraft stole this idea from the cartoon ducks that have basically invented American art culture, but we also can't come up with a single alternative. We're assuming either that Minecraft borrowed the idea or that literally everything that is going to happen was already prophesied by those fucking ducks. If you're looking to cash in on the next big idea, the smart money is that it was already written about in a Donald Duck comic. Just pick a strip at random and invent whatever Scrooge is talking about. Seriously.
Spider-Man Invented Ankle Tracking Monitors
If you were a criminal in the '80s, the cops basically had two options of what to do with you if they arrested you: freedom or jail, with the only middle ground being probation, which is really freedom, but you have to write to them every now and then to let them know how you're doing (cops are very needy). But that all changed in 1983 thanks to the introduction of ankle tracking monitors and Spider-Man, who fights crime so well that he found a way to screw over criminals even in the real world.
The real-life story behind ankle tracking monitors, those pesky things we use to track criminals under house arrest, started in 1983 when a New Mexico district court judge, Jack Love (we swear to God this is his real name), was reading an old Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip from 1977. In the comic, the Kingpin captures Spider-Man and puts an "electronic radar device" on his wrist to track where he goes, 'cause Kingpin's got trust issues.
"Seems weird of me to mention my hidden laser key, but I'm sure you won't take advantage of that information. Later!"
Judge Love read the comic (when he wasn't busy hosting our fake reality show, Love and Order) and thought, "Boy, that Kingpin fella seems pretty on the ball; I wonder if I could exploit his ideas. For justice." He contacted his friend Michael Goss, a computer programmer, and Goss was immediately on board to pioneer the delicate art of tracking people with robots.
The invention started out as an "electronic handcuff" but eventually morphed into the ankle monitor we know, love, and claw at today. Goss ended up leaving his job and starting the National Incarceration Monitoring and Control Services (NIMCOS), and in less than four years, 21 states were using the devices to track criminals on parole. Today we use them across the country to track pedophiles, parolees, and immigrants. Meanwhile, Judge Love, who could have said he thought of the idea all by himself, chose to let everyone know that he stole it from a children's newspaper strip. But he also got to be the first to sentence a person to electronic monitoring as punishment, nicely enforcing the classic Spider-Man motto: "With great power comes great responsibility to not leave your house and murder people."
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish writing my legal romance novel, Serving 30-to-Love."
Captain Marvel Jr. Inspires Everything About Elvis
Elvis Presley is remembered as a man overflowing with style and charisma, right up until he died on the toilet from overflowing with something else. What you probably don't know is that pretty much all of the unique things about the style and appearance of the most famous musician of all time were inspired by one of the most obscure superheroes ever, Captain Marvel Jr.
"I've had a bigger influence on the real universe than I ever will in the DC universe."
The King started reading Captain Marvel Jr. as a teenager, dooming himself to a lifetime of fabulousness at a young age. His childhood home in Memphis even has a copy of one of Junior's comic books on Elvis' nightstand. Elvis biographers credit Captain Marvel Jr. with inspiring pretty much every unique thing about Elvis, like the memorable front curl and general look of his hairstyle, for starters.
Cap Jr. is also kind of responsible for making the King obsessed with lightning bolts. As any nerd knows, Captain Marvel Sr. and Jr. transform into their alter egos via magic lightning bolt:
Inspired by Cap, Elvis used the same symbol when he created his own personal logo. Adopting the humble style that Elvis was known for, the logo was basically a yellow Captain Marvel lightning bolt, sometimes through the letters "TCB," standing for the unrelated but awesome catchphrase "taking care of business." During his later years, Elvis would end up painting the lightning bolt logo on his walls in Graceland ...
... having it emblazoned on his personal jet, the Lisa Marie ...
... and putting it on jewelry that he gave away as presents, which we imagine was similar to getting something made by a 6-year-old during arts and crafts that you then have to pretend is just the tops.
"No, Elvis, I love them ... It's just that they're so beautiful that I'm only going to wear them on special occasions."
But easily the biggest influence this C-list hero had on Elvis was inspiring the entire look of his glam-rock phase, including the one-piece bodysuits and the short capes.
You know you've gone too far when you're also making jumpsuits based on the alter ego.
The only noticeable difference between the two looks is that Elvis decided Captain Marvel Jr. wasn't flashy enough for his tastes and pulled out his BeDazzler for his own costumes. DC Comics has even winked at the fact that Captain Marvel Jr. did all this for Elvis by flipping the story and having the most recent version of him be a huge Elvis fan.
Which subsequently makes him sound like kind of an idiot.
So a celebrated and successful musician was doing nerd cosplay for a bunch of screaming women his whole life. That might seem like the weirdest thing about this situation, but Elvis' love for Junior wasn't just about the look; his interest in being a superhero goes much deeper than just the superficial stuff. Elvis wrote a letter to then-president Richard Nixon. He claimed to want to help Nixon in the war on drugs and hippies, and Nixon agreed to meet with him, because it's not uncommon for famous people to meet with presidents. Then Elvis the Wannabe Superhero showed up at the White House wearing a cape, because it's not uncommon for superheroes to do that. He then asked President Nixon to deputize him as a Federal Agent at Large because he wanted to help fight crime, and Nixon did it. He gave Elvis a badge and everything. He dresses like a glittering circus freak, he has a license from the president to stop bad guys, and he's got a hard-on for justice.
Elvis Presley sang and charmed his way into being an official crime fighter. It's good to be the King.
D.B. Cooper Was Inspired by a Comic Book Character
The legend of D.B. Cooper is a classic unsolved mystery. All you really have to know is that Cooper was the alias given by a man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in 1971 for a ransom of $200,000. He then parachuted out of the plane with his money, never to be seen or heard from again, securing a future of infamy and being a convenient plot twist on syndicated television. It's a mystery that's baffled investigators, FBI agents, and conspiracy theorists for decades and is the only unsolved air piracy case in American history.
Somehow we expected the face of air piracy to not look like our old principal.
Literally hundreds of people and TV shows have tried to solve the mystery of D.B. Cooper, and what's crazy is that the majority get the most basic part of the story wrong: Cooper's name. Of course D.B. Cooper wasn't the hijacker's real name, but it wasn't even the fake name he gave during the robbery: He actually told the stewardess on the flight that his name was Dan Cooper. Shortly after the robbery, the FBI interviewed, and cleared, a man named D.B. Cooper, and the media got the name wrong from that point on and never corrected themselves, because it's not like it's their job to deal in facts or anything.
"The Cooper story's getting stale. They just released a picture of his tie. Say he strangled
someone with it, keep it interesting ... maybe make his tie a snake, too."
The name distinction is important, as it led to one of the few leads in the case when the FBI learned that Dan Cooper is also the name of the main character in a French comic book that was popular in Europe around the time of the hijacking. It even turns out that the fictional Dan Cooper is a French-speaking air force pilot (he's French-Canadian, though, so think less surrendering and more Wolverine flying a jet while chugging maple syrup out of the bottle). The cover of one Dan Cooper comic released around the same time even showed Cooper parachuting out of a plane, and another had a ransom delivered by knapsack, just like the real-life robbery.
"I like the idea of this, but with money. And bitches."
This connection is actually more substantial than it first seems, if this is in fact where Cooper got his alias. The Dan Cooper comics were never published in the U.S., which means Cooper the hijacker must either be from Europe or have spent enough time there to fall in love with the local air force pilot literature. This hasn't managed to solve the case or anything, but it certainly narrows things down from "anybody" to "anybody who was in Europe for a while in the '70s."
And had a thing for fictitious pilots with strikingly beautiful eyes.
Oh, and we know we mentioned that there are a lot of nuts out there still trying to solve the Cooper mystery, but for the record, this isn't just some crazy Internet conspiracy we're sharing: This is the official theory of the FBI. And since we're on the topic of Cooper and comic books, we've got a little theory of our own about what D.B.'s been up to all this time, as it's pretty obvious he changed his name and went into a different comic-book-inspired career.
We may have just revealed the plot twist for The Avengers 2.
The Fantastic Four's Cosmic Rays Will Give You Superpowers
We all know how the Fantastic Four got their powers: Reed Richards brought his untrained family into space, and they were bombarded with cosmic rays that made three of them normal people with superpowers and Ben Grimm into a terribly disfigured monster with superpowers. It's shitty for the Thing, but at least the cosmic rays make a pretty decent way of getting superpowers, even though logic tells us that basically anything you run into in space that can affect you will likely kill you.
Can we take a minute to talk about all the fucks Sue is not giving right now about their impending doom?
It turns out that a more appropriate saying regarding space would be "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." China has taken this idea of getting special abilities from space and really run with it, as they've started using "cosmic radiation" to grow super fruits and vegetables.
"You should see how they made my wife's melons grow." -both guys
Continuing a project that started in 1987, the Chinese have been sending hundreds of seeds on shuttles or high-orbit satellites to be irradiated by "cosmic radiation in space," kind of just to see what would happen. We can't emphasize enough that those are the scientists' own words that they published in a journal for the United Nations and everything: "cosmic radiation in space," as in, "The most specific thing we know about this radiation is that it's from space."
They brought plants into space in the first Fantastic Four movie as well, but no one gave a shit because that movie sucked.
But the effects of this vague radiation are easier to understand than what's causing it, as most of the seeds that went into space show genetic changes and "multiple chromosomal aberrations" that enhanced the vigor and germination rate of the seeds once planted. Again, we can't say for sure that China got this idea from the comics, but the Fantastic Four does sort of have the "throw shit into space and hope it gets super" market covered. The results speak for themselves, proving that the Fantastic Four were really on to something: China has been able to produce super vegetables such as half-meter-long cucumbers, massive pumpkins, and giant eggplants from the seeds. The researchers also pointed out how not all mutations of the seeds were favorable, meaning that even in the world of super-radiated plant seeds, some come out as Mr. Fantastic and some come out as the Thing.
This pumpkin can only hope to one day meet a blind woman to love it for what's on the inside (seeds).
For more ridiculous predictions (that actually happened), check out 6 Eerily Specific Inventions Predicted in Science Fiction and The 5 Most Ridiculous Pop Culture Predictions That Came True.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out LinkSTORM to learn which Star Wars movie predicted John Cheese's life.
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