Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Trouble With Reprints...

Is that you can't be sure you're actually reading something that is 100% equivalent to the original. For some examples, consider the Essential Spiderman, Volume 1:
At $16.99, it's certainly a heckuva bargain compared to the price of buying up the individual issues reprinted inside. I doubt if you could find a water-damaged, bug-chewed copy of any of those comics for the same price. But you are giving up something, and not just the color, or the musty smell. For example consider this famous blunder, from ASM #1:
Peter Palmer? But in the Essential issue, that mistake has been cleaned up:
But whoever did the editing on the Essentials did let this well-known error through:
Sometimes the editing goes even deeper than clearing up a simple mistake. I talked awhile ago about Supergirl's first encounter with the Legion of Superheroes, where they explained that they were the children of the original Legion members. However, later on it was decided to put Supergirl in the same Legion as Superboy, and so when that story was reprinted the text in several panels had to be completely changed.

Another, very early example comes from Batman Annual #3. As I discussed a long time ago, the origin of the second Two Face initially involved a romantic triangle between the actor Paul Sloane, a prop man and the latter's girlfriend. Apparently in 1963 the Comics Code Authority decided that the reference to Sloane stealing the prop man's girlfriend had to go, and so a couple panels were redrawn and several others were deleted in their entirety.  Update: A reader named Christopher pointed out in an email that in all probability the real reason for the change was the violence inherent in the prop man using acid to burn Sloane's face.  I find this argument convincing, particularly because a splash panel in another story from Batman Annual #3 was also changed.  Here's how it appeared:
But in the original story, there were three cops falling to the ground:
Given that the effect of that change was to make the scene a little less violent, it makes sense to assume that the Two-Face change was made for the same reason.

Sometimes reprints are amended for cultural reasons. ASM #17 had the web-slinger mocking the Green Goblin's throwing arm:

When that comic was reprinted in England years later, the insult was changed to say that the Gobby would never make it as a "fast bowler" (the equivalent of a pitcher in the sport of cricket).

Another example involves the Famous First Editions. In the mid-1970s, DC reprinted oversized copies of some of their earlier and more valuable comics, including Action #1. The comics came with an outer cover identifying them as reprints, but underneath was purportedly a complete facsimile of the original, ads and all. Well, almost. Here's the cover of Action #1 as it appeared inside the FFE:
And here's an original:
Aside from the size difference, there are a couple of minor changes:

1. There is no white glare on the front fender in the FFE.
2. The man in the foreground is dripping sweat in the original.
3. There are two loose rocks by the front of the car in the original.
4. The running board is yellow in the original, green in the FFE.

There are a couple more problems with reprints that I can think of offhand.  Sometimes the space allotted for the reprint doesn't match the size of the original, and so some parts are excised.  For example, when ASM #122 first came out, it included this page:
It was a nice little farewell to Gwen, giving us a reason to feel for Peter's loss.  But when the story was reprinted in Marvel Tales #99, that flashback was deleted to get the page count down.

If I recall correctly, DC also deleted sequences from the reprinted second part of a two-part story that had originally served to recap the previous issue, since those scenes were now superfluous.

DC also changed the artwork on the story about the deaths of Jonathan and Martha Kent.  As I discussed a couple years back, DC had printed the story in 1964 or so, with the Kents as oldsters.  But in Superboy  #145, the Kents were suddenly transformed by an alien TV producer, appearing now as a couple of thirty-somethings.  Thus, when the story of their passing was reprinted, their faces had to be redrawn to make them younger.

Overall, while reprints are often a cheap way to fill in the blanks of your knowledge of a character, always be aware that what you are reading may not be completely what appeared in the original.

Any other examples of reprint problems?  I know, for example, that sometimes DC had their artists trace over old stories in order to reprint them; the Alfred origin in Batman #216 is an example of this.

Update: David's Amazing Adventures points out a coloring change in a reprint of the Thor origin story.

Update II: Scott Edelman notices a change in Spiderman's origin that took place between Amazing Fantasy #15 and ASM #1. BTW, I think the next time Spidey's origin was retold was in ASM Annual #1, and they went back to the Amazing Fantasy version.

10 comments:

Kid said...

Another example of DC tracing stories is Detective Comics #27: A traced version (first used in a '60s 'reprint') was printed in Batman from the '30s to the '70s and the Archive Edition's collection. (The Millenium Edition reprint featured a more faithful reproduction.) Even the first Red Hood/Joker story looks like a traced re-creation.

Marvel at first corrected mistakes in their various reprints, but then decided to make them more 'archival' in nature. Older proof sources with uncorrected errors were used where possible (in Omnibus and softcover Masterworks volumes), but in some instances, the 'mistakes' had to be recreated - sometimes resulting in some obvious tampering depending on the skill of the 'restorer'.

comicsfan said...

In a recent post I made on recycled comics names, a commenter brought to my attention how Thor's name was misspelled in the last panel of Journey Into Mystery #83. It expanded on a point I'd made about Tales To Astonish #16 and the *ahem* astonishing resemblance of "Thorr" to the Stone Men of Saturn; but checking it out, I noticed that the spelling was later corrected when the story was done digitally.

Anonymous said...

When Marvel reprinted Silver Age Spider Man issues in the early 1980's, they updated some dialogue and captions. For example, in Amazing Spider Man Annual #1, Spider-Man taunts Kraven, saying, "You never give up! I bet you're still wearing a Vote for Dewey button!" Later, Aunt May complains about missing her favorite TV show, "The Beverly Hillbillies." When that issue was reprinted in Marvel Tales #150 (1983), those references were changed to "Vote for Ford" and "The Dukes of Hazard." Also, the Avengers reprints in Marvel Triple Action and Tales of Suspense reprints in Marvel Double Feature probably cut out some panels to save space and reduce page count, but you might not know the difference if you had not read the original.

Anonymous said...

Superman #76 (1952) and World's Finest # 94 (1958) had contradicting versions of how Superman and Batman first met. Both were reprinted in World's Finest #179 (1968). The foreword on the splash page of the Superman story was changed, removing a statement that the two had never met. Official Silver Age canon seemed to be that WF #94 depicted their first meeting, and that the 1952 story took place later, and showed how they learned each others' secret identities.

Doug said...

Thanks for this post -- I found it really interesting. Now that I am exclusively buying reprinted collections, the minutiae you discuss is fascinating. And I suppose you've raised a moral issue in whether or not, political correctness or warts or whatever aside, companies should deliver the goods as they originally saw the light of day.

Doug

Al Bigley said...

Also, notice how, when Marvel reprints Spidey's first appearance from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #15, they sometime have his original "pupils" in the white mask slits, other times, they've been whited out...

I guess it all depends on what set of stats they're using at any given time...

Al Bigley

Anonymous said...

There was a From Beyond the Unknown cover that updated aliens refusing to believe in a planet where the greatest leader was "Izzenhower" to refusing to believe in "Neexon."
Of course, this goes all the way back to the Silver Age: One of my 80-page JLA giants cuts the opening scenes of Slave Ship of Space where the heroes discover their signal devices have stopped working: Instead the story starts with Kanjar Ro's bell going off, then everyone meeting and discussing that their devices have shut down. A later reprint fixed that.
-Fraser

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for posting this, here's something else to look for with reprints of ASM #121:

Marvel published a tpb called 'The Death Of Gwen Stacy' in 2002:

http://books.google.com/books/about/Spider_Man.html?id=S1MDAAAACAAJ

For some reason, they recolored the "Farewell to Gwen" page, most of the people on the page are colored yellow. Weird.

Seth Finkelstein said...

Some of the changes on the FFE cover seem to be due to it being a *cropped* version of the original Action #1. The foreground man's sweat drops are part of the crop off on the left, the two loose rocks are part of the crop off on the right. The big rock is an "M" shape in the original, but cropped to looking like a "/\" shape in the FFE. You can also see that the FFE bottom ends at the man's tie, but in the original, all of his tie and more of his shirt and sleeves are visible.

Smurfswacker said...

The business of losing pages upon reprinting is interesting. In my years of comics reading I've only once run across a story that was the other way round. In an early issue of Dell's "Twilight Zone" a story about a tinkerer who builds a time machine ends on a half page, with an ad filling the other half. It wasn't until a reprint years later that we saw the entire last page as originally drawn, with two missing panels restored. Anyone know of other examples?