Saturday, April 16, 2011

Marvel Swipe #1

Marvel didn't do as much recycling of old stories and plots as DC did, for several reasons:

1. Marvel had a much shorter back history than DC did when it came to superheroes, and it was in the process of reprinting a much greater portion of that history than DC did.

2. Marvel stories were more difficult to recycle as the supporting cast of characters was constantly changing.

But they did do one major swipe in the course of only a few years and it involves this magazine:

Marvel made several efforts at establishing a magazine like Creepy or Eerie, which would be oversized, sell for a premium over comics, and feature black and white interiors. They finally succeeded, of course, with the Savage Sword of Conan, but before that there were the short-lived efforts of Savage Tales (1971) and The Spectacular Spiderman (1968). It appears likely that neither magazine sold well enough to justify continuing, probably because the kids who bought ASM and Conan just weren't used to flipping through the magazine racks, which were often separate from the comics.

Marvel dusted off the story from Spectacular Spiderman #1 in ASM 116-118, early 1973. Large portions of the story were used with virtually no changes, as you can see here:

Aside from the update on recent events in the latter, those two splashes are word for word, as are the next eight pages or so. But, as I noted, Marvel's supporting cast changed often, and some surgery was required in order to make the story work.

For instance, consider this scene:

Fine in 1968, but in 1973, Captain Stacy had been dead for over two years. This creates a major problem, as a significant subplot of the earlier story is that the Captain is one of the few people not swept up in the enthusiasm for Raleigh's candidacy, which sets the stage for one of the story's major subplots. As a result, the skeptic role must be switched over to Joe Robertson, although that still creates an uncomfortable moment. In the original, the dialogue here makes sense:

Here's the update:

Would Jameson talk to Robbie, his editor, about "my" newspaper? Wouldn't he be more likely to refer to it as "the" newspaper, or if he was being magnanimous, "our" newspaper? Note as well that the reference to Peyton Place (which was canceled in 1969) was deleted, and the comparison to Goldwater now uses Humphrey instead (which isn't as funny, because Goldwater lost in a landslide, while Humphrey was only narrowly defeated). This reveals another problem with Marvel recycling; Stan's constant use of then-current pop culture references.

There's one other major change to the story. In the original we learn pretty quickly that Raleigh's faking it:

But in the revised version that scene is rewritten:

Overall, that particular change makes a lot of sense, as it adds some drama to the story. However, it is still pretty obvious from the start that Raleigh is not all he's cracked up to be. There's something about the nature of fiction that tells us that the lone skeptic is always right. And Raleigh's biggest supporter is J. Jonah Jameson, the worst judge of character around.

In both stories, the Raleigh campaign is being attacked by a gigantic thug. In the original, the thug is controlled by Raleigh himself, while in the reprise, it's a shadowy figure known as the Disruptor, who turns out to be Raleigh in disguise. In both stories, in classic Marvel fashion, the thug turns on his master in the end, killing him. In both stories, Jameson stays clueless to the end:

In the sequel, Spiderman hides the Disruptor's costume, letting Raleigh be considered a hero, because:


Mike Frank said...

I have seen Stan Lee as being quoted as saying that the Martin Goodman did not want to do the B&W books, only doing them as a favor to Lee. Stan has said Goodman canceled both "Savage Tales" and "Spectacular Spider-Man" before sales figures came in and that when these figures came in that sales were actually reasonably good.

Johnny said...

Hmm, I wonder if the 70s story didn't have an additional unacknowledged swipe: the ending is very similar to Jorge Luis Borges' famous short story "Theme Of The Traitor And The Hero" (though admittedly 'hero whose villainous past is covered up to inspire the people' is a well-established trope).

Jamie Rosen said...

That ending is echoed a bit in Nolan's The Dark Knight, wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

Amd then there's John Ford's 1962 movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes truth, print the legend."

I was rather surprised by the implication in the later story that Jameson endorsed Hubert Humphrey in 1968. I always had the impression that Jameson's politics were pretty right-wing. (Note that in this story he supports a man who poses as a law-and-order candidate.) On the other hand, I seem to recall stories in which he stood up for stereotypically liberal causes such as civil rights and free speech. This might be an interesting subject for a post. -- Jim

Pat said...

Jim, I think they were just updating the gag; is it really likely that Jameson endorsed both Goldwater and Humphrey? That said, a post on Jameson's philosophy might indeed be interesting.

Anonymous said...

True that. I should have said that the updated line (besides being less funny than the original) was also inconsistent with the political leanings expressed in the first version.

I wonder -- would a reference to the 1964 presidential race have been that outdated by 1973, even taking the audience's youth into consideration? -- Jim

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, good point.
interesting post, too. I've read both versions, but never had the chance to compare them side by side.
The decision to cover up the truth annoys me more now that I'm older.

Dean said...

The B&W art is substantially better than the color versions.