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Comic Book Legends Revealed #511

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Welcome to the five hundred and eleventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). For the first three weeks of February, in the lead-up to this week’s Oscars, I’ll feature at least one comic legend involving an Oscar-nominated film (as per the request of long-time reader Arthur K.). This week, was the Avengers originally rated R by the MPAA? Did an Avengers crossover involving Kang get squelched due to a scheduling issue? And what unique way did Neil Gaiman write around Bill Sienkiewicz’s pages in The Sandman: Endless Nights?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: An edited scene in The Avengers on Blu-Ray contained a hint as to how Agent Coulson would return from the dead.

STATUS: False

COMIC LEGEND: The Avengers was originally rated R by the MPAA.

STATUS: True

One “problem” (quotes because it really isn’t that big of a deal) with writing this column is on occasion legends resolve themselves before I ever get a chance to prove or debunk them myself. In this particular instance, a false legend tied together with an interesting true story about Marvel’s blockbuster 2012 film, The Avengers (which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects).

avengers-movie-poster-1

The legend sprung out of an edited scene in the British Blu-Ray edition of the film. In the original film, this is how Agent Coulson is seemingly killed by Loki…

avengers-us-death

In the British release, this is how he is seemingly killed…

avengers-uk-death

This led to a lot of speculation that Marvel was planning to subtly pull back from the nature of his death to better off sell Coulson somehow surviving. You know, a basic “If the blade is sticking out of the other side of his chest, he’s probably not coming back from it, but if it isn’t, then who is to say how severe the injury was?”

Obviously, eventually Agents of SHIELD gave an explanation for his return that was unrelated to anything involving the film, so it was clear that the change had nothing to do with it. But people didn’t know that back in 2012!

So at the time, the explanation was that it was just a matter of the film needing to be approved for release in Britain, with a Disney UK representative saying:

“There’s been no censorship, no foul play. The version of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble [the U.K. title for The Avengers] on Blu-ray disc in the U.K. is the same as the version shown theatrically. It really is. The simple fact is for a 12 certificate film in the U.K., that scene was deemed inappropriate. So Marvel Studios chose to remove the spear tip digitally.”

This, though, started even MORE conspiracy theories, since the film had been released in the UK with the stabbing scene! So why the change now?

So this was explained by Disney UK:

“Thanks to those of you who have let us know about an issue on the Marvel Avengers Assemble UK Blu-Ray and DVD release, which has a less graphic depiction of Agent Coulson’s confrontation with Loki. Each country has its own compliance issues relative to depictions of violence. Unfortunately, another region’s elements were inadvertently used to create the UK in-home release which minimally altered this scene in the film. We thank our fans for their vigilance in recognising this and apologise for the mix up.”

And that turned out to be the truth, as Germany did, indeed, censor the scene and it was on Germany’s Blu-Rays that the scene was edited out on. Disney UK just accidentally got that version, as well. Since, as I mentioned before, the actual return of Coulson had nothing to do with the edited scene, I believe them.

Story continues below

This all ties in with a true story, though, about how The Avengers was initially given an R from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)’s rating board. Not only once, but TWICE!

Marvel’s Kevin Feige explained that it was, in fact, that very same Coulson scene that other countries censored even further that led to the problem. He joked to Movies.com’s Erik Davis, “Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues.”

Here’s the scene. You will just have to imagine how much more graphic it originally was!

Thanks to Erik Davis and Kevin Feige for the information, as well as Disney UK!

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Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: What is the secret origin of “Bazinga!” from The Big Bang Theory?
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On the next page, how did a scheduling problem rob us of an Avengers crossover?

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45 Comments

Here’s something that has bugged me all this years. Way back when Comics from DC still had letter pages (remember them ?), during John Byrne’s tenure on “Wonder Woman”, the title of the letter column was “Amagrams”. Now, I realize it was probably meant to be a portemanteau of “Amazon” and “Telegrams”. But it’s also the name of Amway’ s newsletter (at least it was in the 80s). So, coincidence, or disguised advertising for the people who knew ? (and don’t ask me how I know that).

Sorry, but i think there’s a big mistake in the last legend.
Despair’s story was made by Barron Storey. There’s veven a credit line in the first pafge.
Bill Sienkiewicz drew Delirium’s Story, wich certanly has some strange (delirious) narration in the midle..

Oops, sorry, Juan (and Jim), thanks for the pick up!

This is one thing that always bugs me about censorship and ratings. People claim they’re worried about violence, but actually they’re worried about gore. They’re not worried that a man is killed, the reasons he is killed, who he was, the morality of the actions, etc. They’re worried only about the physical aspects that can gross people out, squick them out.

This strikes me as insane.

Now, I don’t agree with the people who enacted the old Hays Code at all. But at least that had a moral agenda, instead of just a… how would you say… “aesthetics of wounds” agenda.

It’s weirdly similar to how you’re supposed to frown on certain words being used, like the N-word, instead of looking for what message the text may have and evaluating that.

Another legend which I found about thanks to Snopes :

http://hubpages.com/hub/How-The-Peanuts-Comic-Strip-Got-Its-First-Black-Character

With insight on the creation of Franklin (in “Peanuts”) and Jackson (from the American “Dennis the Menace”).

The Kang story sounds like it would’ve been a lot of fun.

Brian, I know there’s been a bunch of those “great story ideas that could’ve been” mentioned here over the years, but I wonder if you ever collected them in a column? (The Alan Moore Twilight of the Super Heroes, Claremont’s plan to kill off Wolverine, etc.) I think it would make for a fun read.

Seconding Freedy’s suggestion, that sounds like a great idea.

Brian, I know there’s been a bunch of those “great story ideas that could’ve been” mentioned here over the years, but I wonder if you ever collected them in a column? (The Alan Moore Twilight of the Super Heroes, Claremont’s plan to kill off Wolverine, etc.) I think it would make for a fun read.

You mean sort of like how I do the occasional “Wolverine Legends Revealed” or “Spider-Man Legends Revealed” columns where I collect various themed legends together? Sure, I guess I could do that some time. Perhaps even next weekend! ;)

Off topic from any of the legends, but I’ve heard (can’t trace it) that the animated show Spider-Man Unlimited was intended to be a continuation of The Amazing Spider-Man 90s animated show.

But after browsing a bit before commenting I only see references to Marvel initially planning it to be able the early years of Spider-Man before agreements caused the show to be unable to use the classic costume (though I believe he did have “something” in the pilot before getting the show’s intended costume).

I recall that a number of years ago Kurt Busiek mentioned that “The Kang Dynasty” was originally going to be a massive story arc featuring the Red Skull. However, Busiek wasn’t able to get permission to use the Skull, since at around that time the character was appearing in (not surprisingly) a multi-part Captain America story written & penciled by Dan Jurgens. So instead Busiek decided to use Kang. Of course, this necessitated a number of significant changes to Busiek’s story, since the Red Skull and Kang are very different characters. In any case, I think it’s funny to find out that Busiek wanted to use Kang even earlier on in his Avengers run, that he wasn’t able to, but he got a second chance to utilize the villain after the Red Skull plans fell through.

Germny? y’all got an A missing there, Bri…

Interesting how Todd McFarlane mentioned he used to do the same thing Gaiman did – reorganizing the pages and figuring out the storyline – for the early issues of Spawn. A lot of people gave him grief about how sloppy and idiotic that was. Though I guess its different when the artist/writer is the same guy.

I wouldn’t call it sloppy, but yeah, when it’s your own pages that’s kind of odd.

I urge all to seek out The Deep Red Horror Handbook for a wild chapter on British film censorship.

I just love the term “Y2Kang” — not getting to use it in a book is wrong!

@Gerard: Or it’s a wordplay with ‘anagrams’.

>> However, interestingly enough, this was NOT the first idea Busiek had for a major Kang story. >>

Plus, of course, by then I’d already done AVENGERS FOREVER, so I’d already done a major Kang story.

>>I recall that a number of years ago Kurt Busiek mentioned that “The Kang Dynasty” was originally going to be a massive story arc featuring the Red Skull.>>

I don’t remember that. I’m not saying it isn’t true, just that I don’t remember it.

If it was true, we must have changed our plans very early on, because the story we told was wholly built around Kang. If we’d been going to use the Skull, it wouldn’t have been the same story with modifications, but a completely different story, from the ground up.

>> In any case, I think it’s funny to find out that Busiek wanted to use Kang even earlier on in his Avengers run,>>

I did use Kang earlier! Honest! And Carlos Pacheco drew him wicked good!

kdb

Very good point, Kurt, regarding Avengers Forever. I’ll make a note of that in the piece!

Germny? y’all got an A missing there, Bri…

The A in the Avengers was so big I had to take A’s from other spots in the piece to make up for it. ;) Thanks, I fixed it!

Thanks for the great week of movie legends, Brian! Just so people know, I was inspired to ask by the fact that Bruce Wayne and J.Jonah Jameson are currently front-runners to walk the podium on Oscar night this year!

Oh yeah, I probably should have mentioned that Simmons/Keaton joke at some point these last three weeks. :)

I don’t remember that. I’m not saying it isn’t true, just that I don’t remember it.

If I am incorrect about you mentioning that you wanted to use the Red Skull in Avengers, then I apologize, Kurt. It’s certainly quite possible my memory is playing tricks on me. After all, I completely forgot about Avengers Forever!

Okay, I guess that nothing is ever truly lost on the internet, because after a few Google searches I located an interview of Kurt Busiek on Slushfactory from way back in 2003. Here’s the relevant passage copied and pasted…

SF: That was an impressive run on The Avengers, by the way. Did you get to achieve everything you’d planned during that run? Were there any storylines you had to change due to a character being unavailable? I mean, The Avengers shares more characters than any other book I can think of, bar JLA, so that must cause some headaches.

KB: I wouldn’t say I got to achieve everything I ever wanted to do with the Avengers, but we sure hit a lot of what makes the book appealling to me. The only storyline I can think of where we changed it due to character unavailablity was “The Kang Dynasty,” which was originally convceived to be about the Red Skull. Once it became a Kang story, it took a different tack and became a different story, though – one that had its own dynamic and its own character concerns.

Here’s a link to the interview… http://www.slushfactory.com/content/EpVlkyVpAZBwGVgZQm.php

Well, whatever the case, Kurt, I would certainly have to say that “The Kang Dynasty” as published was a great story. I’m just sorry that the artwork by Kieron Dwyer did not get enough respect & recognition. It’s definitely a thankless task coming on immediately after George Perez *and* Alan Davis, but Dwyer did quality work on Avengers.

I just knew Sienkiewicz story in Endless Nights felt oddly paced.

Y2Kang would have been fun, but I guess it’s better that it held off and became Kang Dynasty, since:
– Again, we’d just had a defining Kang take in Avengers Forever
– Keeping Kang’s next story as the big finale of his run really sold Busiek’s take on him as a big villain
– We’d already seen a “world trapped in the past” story at the beginning of Busiek’s run, with the medieval Morgan le Fay world

Almost a good thing that Y2Kang didn’t happen as it avoided the endless online arguments on which idea came first, that or William Messner-Loebs’s Brave Old World for DC (something that I still would like to see collected).

“This is one thing that always bugs me about censorship and ratings. People claim they’re worried about violence, but actually they’re worried about gore. They’re not worried that a man is killed, the reasons he is killed, who he was, the morality of the actions, etc. They’re worried only about the physical aspects that can gross people out, squick them out.”

Which seems wrong to me too. To make death, or murder, killing…. Clean is more acceptable? That seems more desensitizing to violence than showing it more horribly.

The ratings search tool on the MPAA website usually shows if a movie has had its original rating changed because of a successful appeal or an edit by the studio, but doesn’t list anything for “The Avengers.” (For instance, if you search for “avengers” on the site, it will show that the 1998 “Avengers” movie, the one based on the British TV series, was one of the rare movies to be edited to get a MORE restrictive rating than it was originally given.) So I’m not sure if Feige was talking about informal consultations with the MPAA rather than an official rating, or if the change was for some reason left off their website, or what.

Yay! You featured a suggestion of mine! I of course have to assume you’re running out of ideas ;) I may have self esteem issues.

But yeah, it’s quite a cool story with the Gaiman thing. The comic that Gaiman discussed in the interview that he wanted to do with Sienkiewicz sounds pretty interesting too.

If that’s true that McFarlane did a similar thing, it would explain why the early issues of Spawn are so damn odd sequentially. That and all the pinup/splash pages.

Man, “Endless Nights” was so great. As a late-coming “Sandman” fan, (I didn’t read it until my mid-late teens in around 1999 or 2000) I can’t even explain how big a deal that was.

It was like I had discovered this amazing thing that only the cool people knew about (obviously, most every comic fan knew about it, but it felt that way) that became my new obsession. I bought the comics, the companion books, whatever I could find. But there was always this thing hanging over it: It was over. I had read it almost a decade after Gaiman finished the series, assumedly never to return again.

Then one day, when my fandom had calmed a little bit (I still loved it, but I wasn’t obsessed as I had been right when I first read it), it was announced that Gaiman WAS coming back. And with a handful of amazing, world-class artists to boot. Of course, now he’s come back a few times (the current series with J.H. Williams is fantastic, of course), but at the time it was like someone had given me my greatest fanboy wish.

How laughable in the Avengers’ “R-18″ case. It really shows how hypocritical the censors can be. Well, at least Marvel did something intelligent and the rest is history.

I’m glad we got Kang Dynasty. That turned out to be my all time favorite Kang story AND my all time favorite Avengers story.

If you do an article of “what could have been” I’d really like to learn more about Avengers: World in Chains. Busiek mentions it in the intro for the collected Avengers Forever and I’ve wondered ever since about what could have been.

Logan –

I completely agree. It seems to be the main effect of fiction with “clean” violence is to make people desensitized to it. I always thought Die Hard was more condemnable than Se7en, even though I love Die Hard. Violence as a cool, funny spectable vs. violence as ugly and diseased. Die Hard is less appropriate for children.

I think the wrong-headed approach comes from equaling violence with sex. If sex is more appropriate for children when it’s hidden and implied, then violence also must be, I guess? Except that an implicit sex scene, like showing a couple just rising from the bed, can be interpreted by little children as they just sleeping together (sleeping as in really sleeping) and nothing more. But the Agent Coulton scene it’s pretty obvious that he was killed (yeah, I know he came back, but still…), regardless of Loki’s spear sticking out or not, so what is the point of making it less messy?

The Angry Internet

February 21, 2015 at 10:54 am

So I’m not sure if Feige was talking about informal consultations with the MPAA rather than an official rating, or if the change was for some reason left off their website, or what.

Presumably the first one. Casino Royale has no mention of a rating change either, even though we know it was edited for a PG-13 because foreign releases have a bit more violence cut from the U.S. release.

Coulson’s coming back is still quite the odd turn. You have to admit that he survived long after being impaled.

Dwyer was indeed awesome on that arc.

>> KB: I wouldn’t say I got to achieve everything I ever wanted to do with the Avengers, but we sure hit a lot of what makes the book appealling to me. The only storyline I can think of where we changed it due to character unavailablity was “The Kang Dynasty,” which was originally convceived to be about the Red Skull.>>

Well, there you go!

I wonder, was that the story I wanted to do where a villain took over Hawaii, sunk geothermal taps into the volcano and used it as a staging base to sweep across the US from west to east? That could have involved the Red Skull.

Other than that, I have no idea what the story would have been about. Once we used Kang, it got very Kang-focused, right away.

And yes, Kieron did terrific work and was a pleasure to work with.

>> If you do an article of “what could have been” I’d really like to learn more about Avengers: World in Chains.>>

That one very much was a Red Skull story, since the premise involved Rick Jones getting farted into an alternate timeline where the Skull won WWII, and the “Marvel Age” all happened under Nazi rule.

But I’m converting that story into a creator-owned book, and you’ll see it in time. It just won’t have any Marvel characters in it any more…

kdb

Gerard:
“the title of the letter column was “Amagrams”. Now, I realize it was probably meant to be a portmanteau of “Amazon” and “Telegrams”.”
Da Chef:
“@Gerard: Or it’s a wordplay with ‘anagrams’.”

Or, let’s face it, it could be a word-play reference the two main reasons many guys would read a Wonder Woman comic…
“Mammograms”.

Business avengers had the worst new characters since force works.

Mr. Busiek: I will buy that book!

Business Avengers sounds like a bad late night ad for a corporate law firm.

“Been hit by Patent Trolls? Has a cartel of suppliers got together to artificially force up prices? Has a band got a name similar to one of your trademarks? Call Business Avengers. We’re here to protect you corporation interests.”

Which seems wrong to me too. To make death, or murder, killing…. Clean is more acceptable? That seems more desensitizing to violence than showing it more horribly.

The worst offender has to be The A-Team. “Look kids you can shoot at people with guns and no-one gets hurt!”

Who on earth thought that could be the right message to send?

Presumably the first one. Casino Royale has no mention of a rating change either, even though we know it was edited for a PG-13 because foreign releases have a bit more violence cut from the U.S. release.

The U.S. release of Casino Royale is a foreign release. It’s a British film.

@Brian

I agree as well about the term “Y2Kang”. We still have a chance! We can do a untold story that dates back during that period or heck a alternate universe with counterparts showing what happened. We need this story! :)

@Kurt Busiek
“That one very much was a Red Skull story, since the premise involved Rick Jones getting farted into an alternate timeline”

Thank you for using “fart” in that wonderful way :D

It’s hard to say in this day and age, but is Casino Royale a British film? It is made by Eon, which is British, but founded and owned by Americans. And produced and distributed by Columbia, an American company. Which is owed by Sony, a Japanese company. I mean, by that standard it could be foreign in England too. Or none of those countries.

I know this is a year late, but since no one answered at the time, the collected edition of that story line was called the ‘Kang Dynasty’, so it’s an official title.

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