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10 Comics That Came Surprisingly Close to Real Life

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Comics aren’t often accused of being too realistic, but sometimes they eerily tip-toe into the realm of non-fiction. Here are 10 comics that brushed uncomfortably close with real life—some inadvertently, others on purpose.

1. THE LEXCORP TOWER AND 9/11

DC Comics

In the days after 9/11 there were lots of disaster-themed media that suddenly seemed wildly inappropriate in light of the tragedy that just occurred. Comics had their own uncomfortable example of this when Adventures of Superman #596 hit stores the day after the 9/11 attacks with an image of the smoking, damaged husk of Lex Luthor’s single L-shaped Lexcorp tower which, viewed from the angle below, looks much like the Twin Towers (keep in mind for everything on this list that comics generally take months to produce and distribute before they hit the stands so these are all incredible coincidences).

Unbelievably, later in that issue, an image of the actual Twin Towers is shown with damage that is remarkably close to where the real hijacked planes crashed into them.

DC Comics

2. WONDER WOMAN AND THE DEATH OF PRINCESS DI

In August 1997, DC Comics released Wonder Woman #126 in which Wonder Woman, also known as Princess Diana of Themyscira, would die at the hands of the demonic villain Neron. Her death would actually happen in the following issue and she would be brought back to life (of course) shortly after. This was to be the beginning of popular comic creator John Byrne’s run on the title.

Four days after this comic hit the stands bearing the cover below, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash and every newspaper in the world suddenly had a headline that was eerily similar to the subhead in this one.

DC Comics

3. SUPERMAN AND THE CHALLENGER DISASTER

DC Comics

There's no explanation for why there are so many Superman comics on this list, but just as strange is the number of items that involve comics creator John Byrne.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing all seven crew members including school teacher Christa McAuliffe. John Byrne had just completed the first issue of his new Man of Steel limited series which would introduce a brand new iteration of Superman to DC Comics. However, in the issue was a scene where Superman saves a space shuttle that was carrying a special passenger—reporter Lois Lane.

Byrne quickly redrew the scene so as to avoid seeming insensitive, replacing the shuttle with an odd-looking futuristic “space plane."

DC Comics

4. SPIDER-MAN AND THE NEW YORK CITY BLACKOUT OF 1977

Marvel Comics

In Marvel Team-Up #60, Spider-man and the Wasp join forces to fight a villain named Equinox. In the course of their battle, a transformer is blown up and all of Manhattan suffers a blackout. This issue came out on the same week of the great New York City Blackout of July 1977. It should be noted that there hadn’t previously been a major blackout in New York City since 1965. The next one after was in 2003, so to have this comic and an actual real live blackout happen in New York on the same week is pretty amazing.

Oh, and guess who drew this comic? You got it, John Byrne. It doesn’t even end here.There are enough coincidences like this that people took to calling it “The Byrne Curse.”

5. LEX LUTHOR AND THE ATOMIC BOMB

DC Comics

In Superman #38, released in 1946, Lex Luthor terrorizes Metropolis with an “atomic bomb.” This comic had actually been written and produced two years earlier, but when the U.S. government got wind of it they sent agents to the offices of DC Comics to stop publication until they received official permission. At the time, the Manhattan Project was underway and the government did not want the Axis powers to know that they were working on an atomic bomb and were closely monitoring any public mention that could be considered a clue. The folks at DC were not given a reason for the censorship and could only assume they had hit on something sensitive, but they did not know what. Two years later, with the war over, the comic was cleared to be released.

However, not knowing what they had done wrong, DC toed the line too closely for the government's taste a few more times before the war ended. A newspaper strip showing Superman getting bombarded by a cyclotron (atom smasher) and a comic depicting an atomic bomb test were also forced to be delayed.

6. UNCLE SAM AND PEARL HARBOR

Quality Comics

In National Comics #18, released in November of 1941, the Germans attacked Pearl Harbor in a ruse to lure the U.S. Navy away from their primary target—the Eastern seaboard. Not even a month later, on December 7, Pearl Harbor actually was attacked by Japan.

7. SUPERMAN AND THE JFK ASSASSINATION

DC Comics

In Action Comics #309, Superman upped his game of increasingly elaborate attempts to throw people off the trail of his secret identity by having President John F. Kennedy pose as Clark Kent for him. The issue hit the stands the week after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, too late for DC to recall the issue.

8. DICK TRACY AND THE LINDBERGH BABY

Chester Gould

Whereas the previous items in this list show comic creators inadvertently referencing real life, the next two entries show comics that purposely chose to mirror it.

In March of 1932, the nation was captivated by news of the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's 20-month-old son. Chester Gould, the creator behind the popular daily newspaper strip Dick Tracy, decided to rip this story idea from the headlines. In the comic, Buddy, the son of millionaire John H. Waldorf, is kidnapped and Dick Tracy is put on the case. Readers followed both this and the real Lindbergh case simultaneously, though unlike the real case, Gould’s story had a happy ending. It turns out Buddy was kidnapped by another real-life analogue—Big Boy Caprice, an obvious stand-in for Al Capone who some at the time believed was behind the Lindbergh kidnapping.

In other examples in this list, comic creators tried if they could to avoid similarities to the real event, but here Gould did the opposite. Though it may seem off-putting now, the way Dick Tracy stories drew parallels to real news stories was part of what made it such a big hit to readers at the time. The happy endings supplied the types of escapist fantasy that people wanted to read.

9. SUPERMAN AND THE HOLOCAUST

DC Comics

To celebrate Superman’s 60th anniversary in 1998, DC Comics released a series of comics where Superman time-traveled to different eras of the past 60 years. One of those would be the era of his origins in the 1930s, and they made the risky decision to show Superman intervening during the Holocaust.

The editorial team decided not run any of the writer's references to Holocaust victims as “Jews” or “Jewish,” fearing those words would be taken as slurs. The result was a comic that aimed to educate about a historic event but purposely omitted a key aspect of it. Holocaust scholars and the Anti-Defamation League raised concerns once they learned of the comic, and DC quickly offered an apology. The ADL accepted, saying, "The intention was OK but the execution wasn't. One can get so locked in trying not to offend, you offend."

10. DONALD DUCK DISCOVERS METHYLENE

Walt Disney/Western Publishing

Published in 1944, Walt Disney Comics and Stories #44 showed Donald Duck receiving a nasty bump to the noggin causing him to become “the mightiest chemist in the universe.” He begins spouting out chemical equations, one of which—CH2—happens to be the formula for methylene, an unknown compound at the time. It would turn out to be the first published mention of methylene, and the panels below would be used as a footnote in the 1969 paper “The Spin States of Carbenes” by P.P. Gaspar and G.S. Hammond as well as other academic papers in following years.

The man behind this Donald Duck comic is the famous Carl Barks, known during his career as “the good duck artist” whose Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics foretold more than just the invention of methylene.

[h/t: Cracked.comGoodComics.com]

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25 Things You Should Know About Tucson
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The west is still wild in Tucson. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Arizona’s second-largest city attracts artists, astronomers, outdoorsy types and at least one rare cat. Read on for more Tucson trivia.

1) Some of the earliest evidence of corn cultivation in North America comes from Pima County, Arizona, where Tucson is located. Archaeologists have recovered kernels estimated to be 4000 years old within 60 miles of the city.

2) Towering above the downtown area is an iconic mountain called Sentinel Peak. Look at it from a distance and you may notice that the base is darker than the summit. The native Tohono O’odham people called this landmark Ts-iuk-shan—which is a corruption of their word for “black base.” Spaniards later turned Ts-iuk-shan into Tucson.

3) On March 20, 1880, a passenger train rolled into Tucson for the first time. Mayor R.N. Leatherwood sent out telegrams to dignitaries to publicize the occasion, writing to Pope Leo XIII that the railroad now linked "this ancient and honorable pueblo" with the rest of the Christian world. Newspapers began calling Tucson “the A. and H. Pueblo,” which gradually shrunk to its current nickname, “the Old Pueblo.”

4) If you’re a stargazer, Tucson is one of the best spots in the U.S. for astronomy. In 1972, Pima County enacted a “dark sky” code to regulate the brightness and number of outdoor bulbs in an effort to help local observatories like one at Kitt Peak. Now Tucson suffers from far less light pollution than most cities do, allowing stars and planets to shine through the darkness.

5) Above Broadway Boulevard, you can walk through the belly of a giant metal snake. A covered bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, this serpentine structure is designed to look like a diamondback rattlesnake, whose gaping jaw and fangs form the entrance.

6) By day, it looks like a big plastic doughnut. But after sundown, the solar-powered Desert O sculpture lights up in an array of vibrant colors. The ring, owned by the city of Tucson, is 6 feet in diameter and uses LED lights to create a brilliant display with a different color combo for every night of the week.

7) In 1970, then-mayor Jim Corbett called Tucson's East Speedway Boulevard the "ugliest street in America." At the time, it was enveloped by garish billboards that obscured the city's beautiful vistas. Then Life magazine ran a two-page photo of the forest of road signs and advertisements. The embarrassing spotlight led to Tucson's sign code, passed in the 1980s, which gradually limited billboards and tacky signage.

8) According to Guinness World Records, Davis-Monthan Airforce Base in Tucson has the largest aircraft repair shop and storage facility on Earth. Covering 2600 acres, it could house 4200 aircraft and 40 aerospace vehicles at one time, while still leaving room for 350,000 production tools.

9) In 2013, a new species of scorpion was discovered in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are visible from downtown Tucson. Biologist Rob Bryson Jr. discovered the species in the Santa Catalinas' "sky islands"—isolated mountaintop habitats known for their biodiversity.

10) Cyclists should consider dropping by on the last Saturday before Thanksgiving for El Tour de Tucson, Arizona's largest and longest-running cycling event. The series of races attracts more than 9000 bike enthusiasts per year and usually raises about $2 million for local charities.

11) Hugo O’Conor, an Irish colonel in the Spanish army, is regarded by some as the founder of Tucson. Although a Spanish mission had been operating in present-day Tucson since 1692, and Native American communities before that, O’Conor arranged to have a military base for Spain's army set up on the site in 1775, resulting in a population boom for the city. O'Conor's red hair and courage in battle gave him the nickname “The Red Captain.”

12) The United States Handball Association Hall of Fame is located on North Tucson Boulevard.

13) Five years after peace was declared in the Mexican-American War, the U.S. bought the lower third of Arizona, which included Tucson, from Mexico. The $10 million transaction, known as the Gadsden Purchase, was finalized in 1854 and added a 30,000-square-mile territory to the United States. The expansion allowed Gadsden, a railroad promoter, to build a transcontinental railroad through the new territory.

14) One of the largest rock shows in the country, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show attracts around 50,000 people annually. In addition to hosting gemstone scholars and dealers, the annual convention has exhibited the most dazzling rocks in existence—like the Hope diamond, lunar rocks collected by NASA astronauts, and the eye-popping Logan sapphire.

15) The Arizona State University Sun Devils and the University of Arizona Wildcats have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to their first meeting in 1889. Each year, the teams compete for the Territorial Cup, the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. The Wildcats play regular home games in their 56,000-seat stadium in midtown Tucson.

16) Speaking of the University of Arizona, it was founded in 1891—21 years before Arizona achieved statehood.

17) Tucson's world-class culinary scene was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015 as a “Capital of Gastronomy.” Only 18 cities around the world have been given this title, and no other American city has cracked the list yet. Jonathan Mabry, a historic preservation officer in Tucson, filed the application for the city. “There are more heritage foods grown within 100 miles of Tucson than any other city in North America,” he told Smithsonian.com.

18) The Fourth Avenue Underpass doubles as a one-of-a-kind photo gallery. Roughly 7000 tiles bearing black and white portraits of 21st-century Tucsonans line the walls.

19) Four national flags have flown over the Old Pueblo. Spain ruled Tucson and the rest of Mexico until 1821. Then Mexico itself took over, but sold Tucson and much more territory to the United States in 1854 (see #13). When the Civil War broke out, the city joined the Confederacy and flew the Confederate flag from February to June 1862. Then Union forces, bearing the American flag, took the city back

20) Tucson is the oldest incorporated city in Arizona (and has been since incorporating in 1877).

21) For a few weeks in 1933, radio listeners in Tucson could enjoy a local show hosted by a very young Ray Bradbury. At age 12, he landed a gig at KGAR reciting comic strips on the air every Saturday night. “My pay was free tickets to see King Kong, Murders in the Wax Museum, and The Mummy,” he later reminisced. “You can’t do any better than that.”

22) El Charro Café is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the U.S. continuously operated by the same family. It may also be the birthplace of the chimichanga. As the legend goes, they were invented by Monica Flin, who established El Charro in 1922. She once flipped a burrito right into the fryer, splattering oil everywhere. Since kids were within earshot, she resisted the urge to curse and yelled “chimichanga,” a slang word that means thingamajig, instead.

23) The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is truly larger than life. A gallery of scale models, it boasts more than 300 tiny room boxes and houses. Some examples predate the Revolutionary War.

24) Downtown, a street known as Calle Carlos Arruza honors one of the greatest bullfighters in history, Mexican-born Carlos Arruza, whose nickname was El Ciclon (The Cyclone). According to historian David Leighton, Calle Carlos Arruza is one of the very few streets—possibly the only street—in the U.S. named after a bullfighter.

25) Only two non-captive jaguars, the largest cats in the New World, are known to reside within the U.S. One of them, nicknamed El Jefe, is a Tucson celebrity. Discovered in 2011, he can be found stalking the Santa Rita Mountains 25 miles south of the city. Jaguars are a near-threatened species: biologists estimate that about 15,000 are left in the wild.

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The Night the Brat Pack Was Born
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If Emilio Estevez had opted to pay for his movie ticket, the Brat Pack might never have been born. It was spring 1985, and Estevez—then the 23-year-old co-star of St. Elmo’s Fire—was being profiled in New York Magazine. The angle was that Estevez had just signed a deal to write, direct, and star in his own feature, That Was Then... This is Now, an opportunity that was rarely afforded to young Hollywood talent. Estevez was two years younger than Orson Welles was when he performed similar duties for 1941’s Citizen Kane.

That youthful exuberance was on display as New York writer David Blum followed Estevez in and around Los Angeles for several days gathering material for the story. With Blum in tow, Estevez decided that he wanted to catch a screening of Ladyhawke, a fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick. For reasons not made entirely clear, he preferred not to have to pay for a ticket. According to Blum, Estevez called the theater and politely asked for free admission before entering an 8 p.m. screening.

It's likely Estevez was just having a little fun with his celebrity. But to Blum, it was indicative of a mischievous, slightly grating sense of entitlement. Blum’s assessment was that Estevez was acting “bratty,” an impression he felt was reinforced when he witnessed a gathering of other young actors at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe for the same story.

What was supposed to be a modest profile of Estevez turned into a cover story declaration: Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” was here, and they had decided to forego the earnest acting study preferred by their predecessors to spend their nights partying instead.

The day the story hit newsstands, Blum received a call from Estevez. “You’ve ruined my life,” he said.

The June 1985 cover of New York magazine
New York, Google Books

Blum’s label had its roots in the Rat Pack of the 1960s, so named for the carousing boys' club led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was accurate or not, the performers developed reputations for squeezing every last drink, perk, and joke they could out of their celebrity well into middle age.

That dynamic was on Blum’s mind when New York dispatched him to cover Estevez. After he arrived in California, Blum took note of the fact that a tight cluster of actors seemed to have formed a group, both on- and off-screen. Estevez was close friends with Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, and all of them appeared in 1983’s The Outsiders; Lowe and Estevez were co-starring in St. Elmo’s Fire, a coming-of-age drama that also featured Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson; Estevez and Nelson gained a lot of attention for 1984’s The Breakfast Club.

To Blum, Estevez was more than just a multi-hyphenate; he appeared to be the nucleus of a group that spent a lot of time working and playing together. And in fairness to Blum, Estevez didn’t dissuade the writer from that take: Fearing he was coming off as too serious in the profile, Estevez asked Lowe and Nelson to hang out with him at Los Angeles’s Hard Rock Cafe so Blum could see the actor's lighter side.

Nelson would later recall that he felt uneasy around Blum. “Why is this guy having dinner with us?” he asked Estevez. Lowe, meanwhile, was busy flirting with women approaching their table. The group later went to a "punk rock" club, with a Playboy Playmate tagging along.

As celebrity hedonism goes, it was a tame evening. But Blum walked away with the idea that Estevez was the unofficial president of an exclusive club—attractive actors who were soaking up success while idling late into the night.

Blum returned to New York with a different angle for his editors. He wanted to capture this “Brat Pack,” a “roving band” of performers “on the prowl” for good times. Although the magazine had just run a cover story about a teenage gang dubbed “the wolf pack” and feared repetition, they agreed.

As far as Estevez and the others were concerned, Blum was busy executing a piece on Estevez’s ambitions as a writer and director. When Estevez, Nelson, and Lowe appeared on the cover—taken from a publicity still for St. Elmo’s Fire—with his newly-coined phrase, they were horrified.

Blum began getting calls from angry publicists from each of the actors mentioned in the article—and there had been a lot of them. In addition to Estevez, the de facto leader, and lieutenants Lowe and Nelson, Blum had dubbed go-to John Hughes geek Anthony Michael Hall the “mascot”; Timothy Hutton was said to be on the verge of excommunication for his film “bombs”; Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Matt Dillon were also mentioned.

To the actors, the effect was devastating. Independent of how they spent their free time, all of them were pursuing serious careers as performers, with producers, directors, and casting agents mindful of their portrayal in the media. Being a Brat Packer was synonymous with being listless, or not taking their craft seriously.

Nelson recalled the blowback was immediate: Managers told him to stop socializing with his friends for fear he’d be stigmatized as unreliable. “These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people, funny, smart, committed to the work,” he said in 2013. “I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only [were] we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people.”

Universal Pictures

Some of the actors went on The Phil Donahue Show to criticize the profile, asserting that their remarks to Blum had been off-the-record. (Blum denied this.) Lowe told the media that Blum had “burned bridges” and that he was “no Hunter S. Thompson.” Andrew McCarthy called Blum a “lazy … journalist” and found the idea of an actor “tribe” absurd—he had never even met Anthony Michael Hall.

Unfortunately, the name stuck. “Brat Pack” was infectious—a catch-all for the kind of young performer emerging in the ‘80s who could be seen in multiple ensemble movies. While Blum would later express regret over the label, it’s never quite left the public consciousness. In 2005, Universal released a DVD boxed set—The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles—as The Brat Pack Collection.

Nelson, Estevez, and Lowe never again appeared in a movie together. “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist,” Estevez told a reporter in 2011. “Warning: My ghost will come back and haunt them.”

Nelson was slightly less forgiving. In a 2013 podcast, he chastised Blum for his mischaracterization of the group of young actors. “I would have been better served following my gut feeling and knocking him unconscious.”

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