Friday, November 4, 2011

Change the Reprint to Fit

Weird Wonder Tales 2 cover: scaly little aliens drag man toward flying saucer
In a Comic Book Legends Revealed post, Brian Cronin quotes Roy Thomas about the time Chip Goodman (son of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman) gave some editorial input: demanding a cover for a Kid Colt reprint issue feature outlaws in animal masks. That meant the reprint story art, which featured nothing of the kind, had to be altered in a couple of panels to match the cover.

Here's another reprint where, as already pointed out in the Grand Comics Database, a story was altered (and again with masks). I submit that it was changed for the same reason as the Kid Colt story: to match the cover. Who knows whose decision it was? Weird Wonder Tales 2 (Feb/74), cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia,  reprints "The Little People" from Marvel Tales 138 (Sept/55). The title is changed to "I Was Kidnapped by a Flying Saucer"—to match the cover. (Possibly the scripter is Joe Gill.)

The hurried redrawing certainly sticks out in the midst of Paul Reinman's earlier art:

Marvel Tales 138 panels: alien little men capture man; WWT 2 panels: same, but little men take off masks to reveal scaly faces

From the next page:

more panels comparing little human-looking aliens in Marvel Tales and scaly aliens in WWT

The "improvements" don't end with the art. You can't miss where some dialogue has been relettered to fit the new plot point. In panels not shown here, names have been relettered, just as poorly, to those of Marvel Bullpenners: "Mabel" to "Carla," "Colonel Mite and his wife" to "Don the Dwarf and Tiny Tony," and "Cluny the Giant" to "Marvin the Giant"—but not consistently; "Cluny" is left unchanged once.

I can't cite a single instance where altering a story in reprint improved it for this reader. Reprints have been changed for any number of purposes beyond fitting the story to a new cover or a production person's whim. For instance:

cutting the story length
acquiescing to the Comics Code or new publisher policies
updating fashions or culture references
retconning or annotating
replacing a character because the license has expired, or for other reasons
redesigning the page
rewriting the story entirely

Every great once in a while, I suppose, an actual mistake in the original has been fixed.

I think the readers and original creators are respected more just by reprinting the stories unaltered.


  1. Martin,

    Thanks for posting the original. I was always aware that the reprint was altered but never had the opportunity to see the original. The changes are likely by either John Romita or Larry Lieber and Mike Esposito. Why anyone would go through all the trouble to make those changes in this particular story is beyond me, but I'd also rather see the reprints unaltered.

  2. It's like the joke about the bad restaurant: not only is the food bad, but the portions are so small. I dislike the changes to begin with, but they're always so blatant!