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Comic Theme Time – Retroactive Changes to Published Comics

Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

In this week’s Movie Legends Revealed, I discuss how George Lucas went back and added “Episode IV A NEW HOPE” to re-releases of the original Star Wars film years after it was first released.

This is something that happens in comic books a lot, as well, where changes are made after the fact to published comics when they’re reprinted. Like Batman not having purple gloves in most reprints of Detective Comics #27 (as shown in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed)…


Or Spider-Man not being referred to as Superman…

or Peter Palmer (see this Comic Book Legends Revealed for the scoop on those errors)…

What other good examples can you think of?


How about Chris Claremont using Classic X-Men reprints to fill in old continuity holes. Like adding the scene where Warhawk is hired by the Hellfire Club to bug the X-Men’s computer; it explained what the heck Warhawk was doing there, which was kind of a mystery for about a decade.

Cool stuff!

I noticed, I think in Amazing Spider-Man 18, Ms. Watson was called something different.

In the “Lonely Place of Dying” Batman/New Teen Titans arc that introduced Tim Drake, Dick called Tim “Jeff” in one panel.

How about Jim Lee’s Savage Dragon #13 being completely disregarded and being re-done by Erik Larsen? Erik apparently did not like the fact that Jim killed off a central character, so he went and re-did the whole issue himeself and told fans to completely diregard the Jim Lee version.

Given that the GA/SA Two Face was sometimes given the name “Harvey Kent,” I would assume you find that “corrected” in all sorts of reprints over the years.

As I recall, there were various things like this early in the nu52, such as deleting a reference to an earlier group of Teen Titans.

In Infinite Crisis #7, Power Girl was able to awaken Wildcat’s memory of the Superman of Earth-2. In the TPB collection this got deleted, such that going forward Power Girl was the only JSA member with her pre-Crisis memories.

Tenzil Kem, Esq.

June 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

In several reprints of Adventure #247, DC “added” Brainiac 5 to the final panel of the story by recoloring one of the characters green.

Action Comics 232 featured a story entitled “The Story of Superman Junior.’ Superman adopts the son of a dying friend. Within the course of the story, the boy is named Tommy, Johnny and Jimmy Kirk.

You are right Jacob, DCNu changed blurbs referencing former teams, and in some cases (The one I’m thinking off was in Batman) changing dialogue. I know it happened in Batman, Teen Titans, and I believe there were differences in the dialogue and captions for Suicide Squad as well.

When the first Gaiman/Bachalo Death mini-series was collected in trade and hardcover, they fixed the issue of two pages in #3 being originally printed back-to-back instead of side-by-side, which is how they’re meant to be read.

Were any of these examples actually corrected? I distinctly remember Spider-Man being called Peter Palmer several times in the Omnibus edition of Ditko’s books, along with being called Super-Man. Not sure about Batman’s gloves though.

As mentioned in a previous “Comic Book Legends Revealed” column (column #466, to be precise), the editors of Marvel’s reprint anthology Crypt of Shadows altered the dialogue from a reprinted 1950s story to incorporate a reference to later Marvel continuity, changing a spy’s dialogue from “my government will buy your information” to “my organization, HYDRA, will buy information.”

Similarly, another “Comic Book Legends Revealed” column (#26) recounts how Marvel’s reprint comic Tomb of Darkness #22 reprinted a story from Strange Tales #75, but relettered it to change the name of the scientist charcter to Pym, as if this was an untold adventure of Hank Pym.

There’s another ’70s Marvel reprint of a ’50s story that I suspect has altered/relettered dialogue, but I can’t be certain because I haven’t seen the original story. Giant-Size Werewolf #3 reprints a story from Adventures Into Terror #13 called “The Hands of Death” (with early art by Don Perlin). A quick rundown of the story: A small town is terrorized by a mad strangler. A female reporter comes to town to cover the story, but her car breaks down and she takes refuge in the home of an “old lady” whom she quickly realizes is a man in disguise. Fearing that she’s stumbled upon the strangler, she screams for help and a passerby rushes in…but it turns out that the “rescuer” is the strangler. The “old lady” turns the tables and strangles the killer…then drops the disguise and explains to the reporter that he had dressed up as a little old lady to act as bait. He’s actually the husband of the killer’s first victim.

The alteration I suspect comes in the dialogue after the “old lady” chokes out the strangler…he says “That’ll hold the murdering dog till the police get here,” suggesting that the killer has only been choked into unconsciousness, not killed outright. That bit of dialogue just seemed so at odds with the story that it makes me think the dialogue was modified (possibly for Comics Code approval?), so that the story wouldn’t have a “good guy” killing somebody for revenge. But, as I said, I haven’t seen the original story, so for all I know that dialogue WAS as it originally appeared.

Marvel Tales used to update cultural references, like taking a joke from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 about a “Vote for Dewey” button and turning into a joke about a “Vote for Ford” button. On a more minor note, they also tended to alter footnotes so that they referred to previous issues of Marvel Tales rather than to the original comics.

In a smaller example, the 1970s reprints of the old “Dr. Droom” stories updated the name to “Dr. Druid,” the name used today.

When Steve Engelhart sort-of created the 1950s Captain America with input from Roy Thomas, they reprinted some pages from Cap’s first 1950s “revival” appearance unchanged…except that they added scare quotes when Cap says “Time for us to do this ‘again'” to indicate that it wasn’t the “real” Cap and Bucky. A reader called them out on this in the letters column.

When Infinite Crisis was released in hardcover, the notoriously unfinished issue #7 not only got finished coloring and pencilling, but also some extra pages that tied up some story points and changed dialogue int he existing issue.

More infamously, there’s the epilogue that was tacked onto the Korvac Saga back in the 1980s, which has been dropped from later editions of the collected story.

One that no one but me cares about has to do with the Marvel Handbook Deluxe edition, where entries were rewritten, redrawn, or dropped entirely in the TPB version from the late 1980s to reflect changes that had happened since the original issues were published. The most blatant example is the entry for the android version of Zodiac, which is entirely redone in the TPB.

There’s an old Mystery in Space where the reprint in From Beyond the Unknown replaced Eisenhower with Nixon.
And I have a reprint of a Showcase Metal Men in which the original dialogue (discussing whether they’d get their own book) is replaced by promises they’ll continue fighting crime and injustice.

I think the current fashion for reprints of old, considered “classic” material is to preserve the original no matter what. Certainly, Marvel Masterworks retains many if not all errors from the source material.

Here’s a weird, minor one that for some reason stuck with me: Norman Osborn’s haircut in New Ways to Die. John Romita Jr. was doing his usual super loose pencils and didn’t draw anything on the sides of Osborn’s head, assuming the colorist would handle that part. Not comprehending Romita’s intention, the colorist let it be, so that Norman appeared with only a rectangular strip of hair covering his pate. A quick pop over to Marvel Unlimited shows the mistake to have been corrected, at least for their digital library. However, you can still see the gaff on the digital cover of Amazing 569, if you’re curious. And maybe you should be, because literally it’s the only thing I remember from the story; it’s that weird and stands out that much.

DC felt the need to tone down some of the more egregious racial stereotypes in some of the early Chronicles reprints of 1940s material, but they seemed to rethink that later on and just go ahead and show them as they actually appeared. I posted an example from The Wonder Woman Chronicles vol. 1 showing how the depiction of an African-American train porter was toned way down in reprints (about 4/5 of the way down the page).

And of course that same kind of thing’s going on right now with Marvel obscuring racial epithets in its Miracleman reprints.

The rolling retcon of comic timelines seems the biggest single instance, since it applies to everyone. Ten years ago, Bruce Wayne because Batman. 20 years ago, he had been Batman for ten years as well. Ten years from now, he’ll have been Batman for ten years. This is what soap operas would be like if the actors never aged.

One neat example that’s far more benign is Strange Tales #141. It’s the end of the year long Eternity epic and it ends with Strange finally resting at home and leaning on a large brazier. But we see a cut-away of the inside of the brazier, and it has …a bomb inside!

For the Classic Doctor Strange baxter-paper reprints of the saga in the 80s, they didn’t want to end on a cliffhanger, so they just eliminated the cut-away. It doesn’t really change the scene, since the bomb may well still be there, but it just puts us in his shoes, celebrating and unaware of the danger. I think it was a smart change that makes the reprints more satisfying.

” It doesn’t really change the scene, since the bomb may well still be there”

That would be true if that was the only alteration. However, a full nine panels referring to the bomb were also cut from those reprints, eliminating it entirely. That said, I think it was a good idea as it does make for a more satisfying ending. Also, the painterly coloring on those is much better than in the garishly printed Masterworks.

Something similar was done in Giant Size X-Men #2 — which reprinted Uncanny X-Men #57-59. On the original last page of #59, the bottom half features a “Dr. Claw” introduction of Karl Lykos as a lead-in to next issue’s Sauron story. In the Giant Size reprint issue, the bottom half of this page was removed and a “The End” blurb was stuck of the panel showing the X-men’s hands digging Alex Summers out of the cave-in.


How about the tendency of DC to change the colouring of one of the random unnamed members in the first Legion appearance in Superboy to suggest that It’s Brainiac 5.

This actually happens in manga sometimes. The original serialized version will have less detailed art, then the collection will have more shading and more activity in the background. I know I’ve seen comparison pics of Yotsuba&!, but I don’t know where to find them. Although I did remember that Kiyohiko Azuma redrew some panels of Azumanga Daioh when it was reissued some years back.

I’ve also seen some instances of webcomic artists tweaking pages to remove errors, like in this page from Gunnerkrigg Court, where Jones (the blond lady) originally had six fingers in panel 8: http://gunnerkrigg.com/?p=726. And Homestuck’s archive was altered for plot reasons–a character sticks his hand in a time warp, and it appears in a number of previous scenes where it hadn’t appeared before. People checked the original pages and found, lo and behold, they’d been altered, so now they all show his hand sticking out of the time warp!

Travis Pelkie

June 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Since you used Spidey up top, I immediately thought of the panel where he discovers the burglar in AF15 and you can see his pupils through the “spider-eyes”.

One I can think of that got changed for the trade is a sequence in 1602 where one page had been…8 panels (2×4) changed to 2 pages of 4 panel pages, iirc.

It’s too bad that some newer comics don’t do this and change errors. My personal suspicion is that because reading and writing on a computer screen is different from physically lettering a comic, more typos slip by than in the past. The Image series Black Science had an issue where, still in the trade, the main character’s last name is misspelled. The main character!

And thinking of misspellings/computer lettering I’m reminded of that Wolverine issue where “the killer named Sabretooth” was inadvertently changed to…something different.

One instance I can think about is Cap battling an android in Tales of Suspense, saying “Only one of us is walking away from this… and it won’t be ME!”

They later reprinted that in Marvel Double Feature and changed the “ME” to “YOU”.

All the Marvel reprint books of the 1970s had to cut pages, since the page count had dropped from 22 to 17. To cover this, you got a lot of dialogue changes or added captions to get around the cuts.

In a few cases, these changes were made to the archived proofs of the comics in question, so later reprints that restore the missing pages are stuck with the “skip explanation” captions. Avengers #55 is a good example; the version in the Greatest Battles of the Avengers trade from the mid-1990s has both the excised pages and the captions on the surrounding pages that try to cover the omission.

Additionally, all reprints of Amazing Spider-Man #29 have altered editorial notes, because that issue was not reprinted until the early 1980s. As the letters page during its first reprinting explained, it was the only issue of ASM that Marvel did not have an archive copy or proofs for for many years, which is why its first reprint date was the very latest of the Ditko/Lee run.

However, these aren’t really retcons-by-reprint that stuck or even topical updates.

Giant Size Spider-Man # 2 reprints Amazing Spider-Man 16 with Daredevil’s original costume colored red instead of yellow.. It’s still the Everett design, it’s just red – looks very strange.

Some reprints of the death of Gwen Stacy eliminate the snap.
One bizarre example is the Marvel Tales reprints of Amazing Spider-Man where they noticed that Peter’s bike changed color from issue to issue but missed a scene where Peter painted it, changed the color of the bike a couple of issues early to correct the “error” and had to apologize for it in the letter column.
As this website points out, in one reprint of Spectacular Spider-Man 81, they edited scenes of Peter looking at drug paraphernalia on the floor, so it looks like Peter is looking at his shoes right after stopping a mugging:
The same site also shows how the Hobgoblin TPB cut out the Secret Wars subplots:
and blew up a tiny panel of Harry and Liz discovering a break-in so that it looks awful:

I sent one to you a while back about the planet Rann.

When the Green Arrow/ Manhunter From Mars team-up from The Brave & The Bold #50 was reprinted in issue 114, they eliminated a page where J’onn returns to Mars which meant they had to change one panel on the page prior and change the fate of what they did with the Martian villains at the end of the story.

When Skiis Of Death from Teen Titans #24 was reprinted in DC Super Stars #1 they added words to Dick’s dialogue on Page 4, Panel 3 which made a lot more sense then the original.

Also the book the medicine man was holding at the end had it’s title changed.

The Legion story in Adventure Comics #305 has a different person re-elected president than the reprint in issue 403.

Of course there are numerous stories where a year gets updated to whatever year the reprint is done in. (Because heaven forbid the readers think this is a reprint.)

The original run of “Elfquest” had oddly proportioned pages, no colors and not the standard page count for most comics, so when Marvel reprinted them in color under the Epic imprint, new art was created to bridge the old issue gaps and create new start and end pages for the color comic. I don’t have the original run, but I’d think that some reprints use the Epic versions with the extra pages.

The Angry Internet

June 20, 2014 at 12:48 am

When Infinite Crisis was released in hardcover, the notoriously unfinished issue #7 not only got finished coloring and pencilling, but also some extra pages that tied up some story points and changed dialogue int he existing issue.

Ditto Final Crisis, which has changes throughout in some of the collected editions, including the most recent TPB. A lot of these are just corrections—letters with umlauts weren’t shown correctly in the original versions, some speech balloon tails pointed to the wrong characters, the explanation of “God’s number” in reference to Rubik’s cubes was incomplete, the dialogue misnumbered the universe Captain Carrot originally came from, and Shiloh Norman suddenly turned white about halfway through the series (though the “corrected” editions have one panel where Sonny Sumo suddenly turns black, which didn’t happen in the original). But a ton of dialogue balloons were added and reworded to clarify certain things (or just to sound better), panels and even entire pages were re-drawn (notably the appearance of the main villain near the end), and a few pages were added to the last issue so it doesn’t seem quite so compressed. One change introduced a new error: a lot of the “@#%!”-type stuff was replaced by uncensored, non-profane dialogue, which results in Captain Marvel admonishing Renee Montoya for swearing she doesn’t actually do in the new version.

@The Angry Internet – The ‘God’s Number’ conundrum made absolutely no sense as originally written, so I would be interested to see how they made it work. As someone who grew up in Australia and the UK, we used to get retconned dialogue all the time in Marvel UK/Federal Comics reprints of US material. I can think of dozens of cases where it was done to issues of Transformers.

There’re also some Spirit stories late in the 1940s that are either altered versions of Eisner’s less successful “John Law” series or are partially redrawn reprints. The famous “blind spirit vs. the Octopus” sequence, for instance, was reprinted in a later Spirit section with alterations so that it no longer read as the final part of an ongoing arc.

Mick Anglo redrew and relettered a number of Miracleman stories to create a very similar new hero, Captain Miracle, whose super word was “El Karim.” The series ran for nine issues in 1960-1.

also in the vein of changing racist material, Tintin in the Congo was redrawn and rewritten to remove some its more offensive aspects in later publications. A sequence in which Tintin blows up a rhinoceros by shoving a stick of dynamite into a wound was removed entirely, and many of the Congolese characters are redrawn in less racially caricatured ways.

When I was a kid and the Grey Mr. Fixit Hulk was around I remember explaining it to a friend that when the Hulk originally appeared he was grey and he didn’t believe me because he had a collection of the old Hulk comics and they had recolored Hulk green.

The Angry Internet

June 20, 2014 at 11:36 am

@Drancon – “God’s number” is a real thing, but it only applies to a “maximally scrambled” Rubik’s cube, a detail Morrison neglected to include in the original issue. The revised version adds the word “scrambled” before “Rubik’s cube,” which still isn’t completely accurate but makes more sense than the original, which effectively stated that you can work on a Rubik’s cube forever and never be less than 18 steps from solving it.

I remember as a kid I had the book “Curious George Goes to the Hospital” with a scene where George takes an ether mask off the wall and takes a few hits, which was removed from later versions. Not a comic, but pretty close.

Here’s an obscure one:

In issue 1 of Aliens: Genocide from Dark Horse, the Alien blood is colored “human” red. Editors corrected it for all reprint versions to it’s normal yellow-green.

on the subject of Dark Horse’s Aliens – the first 3 miniseries (written by Mark Verheiden) were sequels to Aliens following Newt, Hicks and Ripley following their safe return to Earth.
Then Aliens 3 was made showing what actually happened to them.
in Newt’s Story Dark Horse apparently “Abandoned and Forsaked” the miniseries by suggesting they were dreams.
Later, novelisations and reprints changed the names of the characters so the stories were returned to continuity but with original characters..

Marvel UK made a lot of changes to the American stories reprinted
The biggest change was reinventing KillRaven as ApeSlayer for Planet of the Apes

the oddest may have been adding a page from a Steranko’s Captain America story showing an amusement arcade full of people just as Iron Fist was entering a supposedly deserted arcade (as Marvel UK split stories into 2 halves they had a one-page intro to the second half -usually a cover or reworking of a panel).

A number of Marvel UK reprints modified the art so female characters showed less skin (done in a much better way than 1 volume of the mercenary in which it seemed someone censored the painted artwork with a felt-tip pen).
scripts were altered sometimes to remove American references (changing GI Joe to Action Force,and removing the reference to an American toyshop from a Spiderman Tinkerer story) though on some occasions the dialogue just seemed to be changed to make it harder to understand.

That Death mini-series printing wasn’t a retroactive change, it was a misprint caused by improper ad placement. A two-page spread was turned into a back-to-back page, which messed up the dialogue.

It was also corrected before the trade/collections. A second run of issue #3 was printed and sent to comic shops. I believe the idea was that customers could trade in the misprinted issue for the properly printed issue, but my comic shop just gave them to people without asking for the original back.

when Classic XMen 10 and 11 reworked Uncanny XMen 102 & 103 they reworked Storm’s background removing the dates and references to specific historic events (Storm was originally born in 1951 and her parents died in the 1956 Suez war…so now she would be in her 60s) and removed the references to Nightcrawler’s invisibility in shadows (1 page removed and at least 1 panel reworked) though they left in the Leprechauns.

The first printing of the Alan Davis/Paul Neary 3-page “the Origin of the Crusader” originally ended with the caption “DEAD?…CAN THIS BE? Were those who said “You can’t become a superhero with a name like Perseus Ablemarle” right? OR …are those newspapers darting and drifting to the passage of something other than a common breeze? WHO KNOWS? ONLY TIME WILL TELL!!”. As nothing followed this, the caption was not included in a later reprint.

In Issue #4 of the Dark X-Men miniseries, Norman Osborn is referred to as a “Neocon”. In the Harcover and tpb collections, it’s switched to wrong. It was politically motivated.

In Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #2 there are heads mounted on the walls of Doctor Faustus’s hideout. Two of them are labeled Nayland Smith and Ruth Bat-Serpah, but in the TPB the labels are obscured.

There are probably few examples of hidiing nudity in collected editions (I heard about Avengers #12.1 and X-Treme X-Men somewhere in the #30s).

Does something like rearrangement of double-page spreads in New X-Men Annual for the trades count?

[quote]How about Chris Claremont using Classic X-Men reprints to fill in old continuity holes. Like adding the scene where Warhawk is hired by the Hellfire Club to bug the X-Men’s computer; it explained what the heck Warhawk was doing there, which was kind of a mystery for about a decade.[/quote]

I’m pretty sure that during the introduction of Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle in Uncanny X-Men #129 and the revelation that they had the Xavier’s mansion bugged, there was an editor’s note explaining that it was Warhawk who did it. Or maybe they even said so on-panel.

Andy E. Nystrom

June 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

One issue of Marvel Tales changed what Aunt May was watching on TV to the Dukes of Hazzard.

Most if not all trade collections of Crisis on Infinite Earths change the Golden Age Green Arrow destroying a Shaggy Man in #10 to Speedy (by way of recolouring).

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