September 14, 1999
by Chuck Miller
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."
These words were written over 10,000 years ago by the great poet and playwright William Shakespeare, and no one has seriously questioned them since. But the fact is, names are important, and I suspect Shakespeare's lofty sentiments were more an excuse for the Elizabethans' penchant for bad spelling than anything else. After all, if that which we call a rose were called "cow poop" instead, would you be as eager to stick your nose into one?
Okay. All of that is by way of sliding into a subject that has bugged me for years. You know the big rock-faced guy who runs the planet Apokolips? The one who's always running around looking for the Anti-Life Equation, blasting people with Omega beams? How do you pronounce his name? Come on, tell me.
I'll bet you said "Dark side," and YOU'RE WRONG!!!! It's "Dark seed." SEED, SEED, SEED, SEED!!!!!! "DARKSEID" IS PRONOUNCED "DARK SEED," ALWAYS HAS BEEN, ALWAYS WILL BE.
Then why, you may ask, do they call him "Dark side" in the cartoons? Well, thereby hangs a tale. Jack Kirby's craggy-faced cosmic curmudgeon first came to the small screen in the late 70s or early 80s via the "Super Powers" cartoon, a successor to the "Super Friends." But one of the producers of the cartoon decided that "Dark seed" sounded "too German," whatever the heck THAT is supposed to mean. I suppose we wouldn't want to suggest that anyone with a German-sounding name could ever turn out to be a ruthless, tyrannical despot with no regard for human life. So he was re-christened "Dark side," thus avoiding the storms of protest which would have undoubtedly sprung up from the German-American community.
Now, to me, "Dark seed" sounds much more chilling and ominous. Like, he's the "dark seed from which evil sprouts and grows." "Dark side" makes him sound like a cheap "Star Wars" ripoff. And imagine my ire when the WB network's Superman cartoon, which usually does an excellent job of remaining true to the spirit of the comics, continued using this lame pronunciation.
Which is ironic, considering the fact that they got one of the most difficult-to-pronounce names in the entire Superman canon correct. I refer, of course, to everyone's favorite fifth- dimensional imp, Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Poor Mxy is another character whose name has suffered all kinds of indignities in the animated cartoon world. When he appeared on the "Super Friends" show, they just called him "Mixle-plick." Can you imagine? That is just sloppy. Somebody was just too hard-down lazy to research the proper pronunciation. DC Comics' E. Nelson Bridwell, who was alive at the time, could have told them that the li'l devil's name is, OF COURSE, "Mix-yez-pittle-ick." To their credit, the folks at WB got that one right. MXYZPTLK they have no trouble with... DARKSEED, however.... yeesh.
On to the Savage Sub-Mariner. For many years, I called him the "Sub-Ma-REEN-er," before someone clued me in. He's really the "Sub-MARE-in-er." 'Nuff said.
One more. "Hellblazer's" John Constantine is pronounced "Con-stan-TINE," not "Con- stan-TEEN."
And that, my friends, is my tempest in a teapot for this week.
It is possible, albeit highly unlikely, that we could have more than one Superman running around in the near future, one NOT owned or published by DC Comics.
The heirs to the estate of the late Jerry Siegel have filed some legal papers citing recent changes in copyright law which may give them half ownership of the Man of Steel and all related characters. This would include the right to license the characters out to anyone they wished. The whole thing is very complicated, and rather than re-word something someone else has written and risk disseminating disinformation, I will refer you to the horse's mouth, so to speak. The whole mess broke last week in a story by Matt Brady which appeared at the Mania entertainment Web site: http://www.mania.com. Go there for further info. This situation will bear keeping an eye on.