Let’s say you’re part of a team of superheroes. Sounds like a sweet gig, right? Well, it’s not always about saving the world, though, and there can be dry spells when nothing’s going on. What’s an antsy teen-aged superhero to do? Why, call your cousin and join the circus, of course!
So Mr. Fantastic calls an emergency meeting of the Fantastic Four back in issue #15. He drags them from whatever it was they were doing — Sue arrives with her hair still in rollers — because the Chief of Police just called about a large group of big name mobsters converging on the city. Instead of going out on patrol, though, they just hang around doing nothing, just waiting for the mobsters to arrive, I guess.
Ah, but this is where the plot thickens because the Thinker has put in motion a plot that gets the Human Torch’s cousin in town with a plea for help. The Torch’s cousin? Well, sure, why not? After all, this is only issue 15 of the series, so that no one’s ever mentioned “Cousin Bones” before isn’t beyond credibility. It turns out that Cousin Bones and his partner Shorty Bailey run a circus, and they’ve seen business dry up recently. So who better to call in than a famous cousin who has never shown a penchant for entertaining people?
Well, my first thought would be Johnny’s equally famous sister who actually does like to perform! In fact, in that very same story, she completely ignores Cousin Bones coming to town and heads off to star in a Broadway show. Which miraculously becomes a science fiction movie in Hollywood on the very next page! But, hey, maybe Johnny owes Cousin Bones a favor or something.
So “later that day” — despite the immediate threat of mobsters running rampant in the city — Johnny joins the Bones ‘n Bailey Circus. But even though we see Johnny running through some of his act, Cousin Bones seems to have disappeared! He doesn’t show up in the rest of the issue anywhere. In fact, he doesn’t show up again EVER! We have literally half a century of comic book stories since his debut and we have not seen Cousin Bones once! Aunt Petunia has made more appearances than the four panel Bones got!
What happened to Cousin Bones? Not one appearance. He didn’t even show up for Johnny’s funeral a couple years ago!
I’m thinking he went into the Witness Protection Program. No, hear me out! We have here a tall man in a yellow hat and his small friend. Where do we know this couple from?
And isn’t it a strange coincidence that just as Cousin Bones debuts in the “Fantastic Four,” we end the original run of Curious George books? I think it’s reasonable to assume that the Man in the Yellow Hat had to take on a new identity after that incident with the space program and, having an outlandish costume and a small monkey, a circus would be a good place to blend in. But with Johnny drawing too much attention to that circus, the Man in the Yellow Hat had to take up yet another new identity and stop making contact with his cousin.
That poser you see in the cartoons these days? Clearly a fake. “Ted Shackleford” indeed! The REAL Man in the Yellow Hat is Johnny’s Cousin Bones! But the question still remains: what happened to him?
With all this Witness Protection Program business, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he was killed in a mob hit. I mean, it was the mob’s actions that started this whole story in the first place, right? So they just came to New York and blew up all the safe houses, assuming that they’d take care of all their problems at once. Sure, they might kill off the occasional beloved children’s book character, but what do they care? They’re the mob! Serves Cousin Bones right for getting hooked up with them in the first place!