Monday, April 05, 2010

Edited Reprints: Supergirl and the Legion

I just noticed this today due to a discussion at Commander Benson's Deck Log about Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. In Action #267, Supergirl first meets the Legion, although not that Legion:

As I remarked a few years ago, Weisinger obviously recognized the problem with introducing Supergirl to the same Legion that Superboy belonged to; that would mean that Superman would not be surprised when Supergirl landed on Earth, since he'd known of her eventual arrival since his teenage years. So he took care of the problem, except that when the Legion became a continuing series he and his writers obviously wanted to include Kara in their adventures. So, as discussed by Commander Benson:
Weisinger’s explanation became official with the next issue, # 334 (Jul., 1965). “The Unknown Legionnaire” was one of those rare Legion adventures in which Supergirl played a large part, and it didn’t take long after the super-cousins appeared side by side that a footnote was inserted, establishing that Supergirl had implanted a post-hypnotic suggestion in Superboy’s mind so that he would forget her existence when he returned to his own time. Thus, paving the way for his total surprise as an adult when cousin Kara landed on Earth.

And so, when Weisinger reprinted this story in Action #334, the dialog was rewritten:

Note that this also gets rid of a bit of Lysenko-type science. Lightning Lad acquired his powers after a run-in with a lightning beast; there would be no reason to expect his son to inherit that genetically. Of course, there are many examples of this assumption appearing in the comics, but realistically the only parents who could give their powers to their offspring are those that have them from birth.

Some other examples of edited reprints in (or of) the Silver Age:

The second origin of the second Two-Face. The second Two-Face was Paul Sloane. In his original appearance in Batman #68, the hideous side of his face was the result of a jealous husband; when the tale was reprinted in Batman Annual #3, it was caused by an accidental explosion. I suspect that the CCA wanted the love triangle edited out of the story.

The Death of Ma and Pa Kent. When the story was originally published in Superman #161, the Kents were an elderly couple. But in Superboy #145, the Kents were transformed into thirty-somethings by a bottle of youth elixir. Thus, when the story explaining their deaths was reprinted in Superboy #165, their bodies and faces were redrawn to make them look younger.

Anybody aware of other changes? I seem to recall that the cover of JLA #2 was redrawn for the Archive Edition.


Marc said...

As if Legion continuity weren't confusing enough already! I find it really interesting that readers, and writers too, simply accepted these kinds of changes (even if a fair amount of it was actually out of ignorance), while people today get bent out of shape over George Lucas changing Star Wars and what not.

Commander Benson said...

A few years back, I addressed the problems created by the "youthenising" of Ma and Pa Kent, back in Superboy # 145(Mar., 1968) . . . .

As established, when Jonathan and Martha Kent found baby Kal-El and the rocket which had borne him to Earth, they were in their 50's---or for simplicity, "the middle-aged Kents". At that time, Jonathan was a farmer and he and Martha lived in a remote part of the county.

About the time when Clark Kent was old enough to attend school, Jonathan sold his farm, bought the general store, and he and his family moved to Smallville. By the time Clark began his career as Superboy, the Kents were in their 60's, or "the old Kents". and whenever a Superbaby story appeared, the Kents were depicted, since it was roughly a dozen years previous, as "the middle-aged Kents", appropriately.

Once "The Fantastic Faces" turned "the old Kents" into "the young Kents", this created an awkward situation, especially for new readers. Whenever a Superbaby story appeared at this point, "the young Kents" were depicted as "the middle-aged Kents". This was accurate, but undoubtedly confused new readers, who might not understand why the Kents of twelve years previous looked older than what they did "now".

At first, DC tackled this head on. Besides periodically explaining the Kents' rejuvenation, such as in "the Superboy Legend" pages of Superboy # 175 (Jun., 1971), the next Superbaby story---"The Day Superboy Blew Up the World", from Superboy # 167 (Jul., 1970)---depicted the Kents accurately as "the middle-aged Kents", despite the curious inversion of their ages (with a footnote attached to explain it).

As time went by, though, the Superboy writers got lazy and the flashback tales began depicting the Kents of Superbaby's time as "the young Kents", as in "Superbaby's New Family", from issue # 192 (Dec., 1972) and "Big Race for a Mini-Hero", from issue # 196 (Jul., 1973). This is a prime example of the common mistakes in continuity that rankled a long-time fan like me. This kind of error was unexcusable; it didn't require the writer to undertake arduous, time-consuming research--just a basic knowledge of the character he was writing. And if the writers of these stories didn't catch it, editor Murray Boltinoff should have---he was aware of that Superbaby's parents should have been "the middle-aged Kents"; he edited the Superbaby tale in # 167, mentioned above, that got it right.

(Continued in next post)

Commander Benson said...

(Continued from last post)

But that wasn't the only thing bothering long-time readers. Immediately following the appearance of "The Fantastic Faces", older fans wrote in, pointing out the significant tale "The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent", which had appeared 'way back in Superman # 161 (May, 1963). This story, telling of Jonathan and Martha's deaths and the events just prior to it, showed them as "the old Kents". The faithful wanted to know how DC accounted for that.

Then-Superboy editor, Mort Weisinger, explained in the letter column of Superboy # 148 (Jun., 1968) that a side-effect of the Caribbean fever plague contracted by the Kents was to counteract the youth serum, returning them to their actual physical age. This was not completely convincing, however, since there were a few scenes in "The Last Days . . . " that took place before the Kents were infected with the plague, and they were "the old Kents" in those panels, too.

Probably because of that, DC tried to re-write continuity when "The Last Days . . . " was reprinted in Giant Superboy # 165 (Jun., 1970). In an attempt to make it look like it was "the young Kents" after all who succumbed to the fever plague, an editorial brush was taken to all the panels showing the Kents, deleting their eyeglasses and turning their white hair a light brown.

This didn't really go over with the fans, either, since the redrawing didn't go to the Kents' physiques, which were still shown as portly. Thus, all the redrawing did was make the Kents of reprinted "Last Days . . . " look like "the middle-aged Kents" of Superbaby's time.

Throwing up its hands in frustration, DC just ignored the whole thing for a long time. Then, in Superman # 327 (Sep., 1978) editor Julius Schwartz and writer Marty Pasko came up with the solution that should have been obvious all along.

In this story, "The Sandstorm That Swallowed Metropolis", Superman goes up against the master criminal, Kobra. In order to hold the Man of Steel at bay, Kobra reveals that he has plucked Jonathan and Martha Kent---"the old Kents"---out of the time stream a week before their deaths and is holding them in a time-suspension bubble. On page 10, Pasko provides the answer which was right in front of their faces, as Superman remarks:

"They died over a decade ago! And part of me has grieved ever since! It was a terrible blow---because I expected them to live much longer! They had been rejuvenated by an alien youth serum . . . but shortly before I turned 18, they began to age again---proving the effects of the serum had been only temporary!"

Simple, n'est-ce pas?

Pat said...

CB, yep, especially since they could argue that the alien TV producer who turned the Kents young had no particular reason to make them young forever; he'd know that the program was unlikely to last forever.