Thursday, November 03, 2005

George Lucasing Comics

I was going to call this "Wonder Woman Edit Snoozer," but really, I think this is actually a pretty interesting question - do you think it is cool for a company to "improve" upon a comic in later printings, or, in other words, "George Lucasing" the comic?

I do not think that anyone would complain about fixing stuff like typos, but apparently, in the Green Lantern: Rebirth trade, DC made numerous changes to the comic to "improve" it. Again, in the second printing of Wonder Woman #219, there was a LOT of changes for just one comic.

To wit, on page 2, panel 4, Superman is removed from the panel and so is Wonder Woman's dialogue. Her dialogue is moved to the next panel, and dialogue is added to Superman.

On page four, all the captions on the bottom are moved up, so panel 2, which had 1 caption, now has 2. Panel 3, which had 3 captions, still has 3, but the last one is now what was the first caption on page 5, panel 1.

On page 15, panel 5 the "krak" of Wonder Woman's wrist is added, where it was originally the first panel on page 16, with the removal of the word "snaps" (as it is kinda unneeded with the big "krak" in the panel).

Page 16 and page 18 contain the most dramatic changes in the book. Besides the removal of the "krak," the artist (I do not know who drew this page, as the book had, like, three dozen artists) completely redraws the fourth panel. At first, it had what looked like Superman hitting Diana with heat vision, which makes no sense (I think he was trying to draw the heat vision going over her shoulder and it just looks muddled), and it now shows his heat vision blasting over her head.

In pnael five, Wonder Woman is redrawn from kicking Superman in an upwards kick to kicking Superman in a sideways kick.

On page 18, panels 1 and 3 have entirely new Superman drawings. In the original panel 1, Superman is being attacked by birds, but they do not bother him. In the new panel, the birds ARE annyoing him. Panel 3 is just a different version of Superman looking determined.

And that is all the changes. In the OMAC Project trade paperback, the Lucased version is the one that was published.

So, the question becomes, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is it admirable for DC to want to make corrections and make the comic "better," or is it lame of them to tamper with a published piece, like colorizing a black and white film?

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30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly I feel like I can't comment on this stuff without seeing some screenshots, is that not possible to supply?

I think "George Lucasing" is a phrase that has strong conotations to it, you might have been better off with your original title.

I'm certainly not against minor revisions, I can't tell that any of the changes you mention actually change the story being told, it sounds like they just change the flow. I'd be against major changes, but what is minor and major is in the eye of the beholder. I guess its like saying "I'd be against changes that I'd be against".

11/03/2005 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Apodaca said...

I think "George Lucasing" is a perfectly appropriate title, and I honestly can't imagine the connotations being very strong at all. It's the name of a mogul filmmaker, after all. Who is it offending? Other mogul filmmakers?

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, there's the issue of altering the work of the original artist for the issue. Granted, it doesn't seem like the artists involved in this one are particularly attached to the project, but what happens when they do this on a trade that isn't part of a massive crossover? Alterations to the trade is what caused the rift between Alan Moore and Marvel, right?

Another part of me wants the artists involved with the issue to be held accountable for their work. If someone draws a muddled picture, and can't keep the storyflow for their lives, I think everyone should know. But maybe that's just childish.

11/03/2005 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

This reminds me... did they ever change the name of the head scientist guy in the We3 trade, or was Mozzer just screwing with us?

As for this Wonder Woman thing... meh. I doubt it make the comic any less awful.

11/03/2005 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

It sucks. It sucks when Lucas did it, and this sucks. And I can say this without even seeing the comic book, so I don't even know if the changes make it "better" or not. It sucks. If you don't like the product, don't publish the product. Once it's published, it's done. That goes for any medium - Lucas should have kept Jabba the Damned Hutt out of Star Wars if he didn't put him in there the first time. This is one of the worst things that can be done to a work of art (and yes, referring to Wonder Woman #219 as a "work of art" is pushing it, I realize), and I don't care if the original creator is doing it or if the corporation for which it is created is doing it. It sucks.

I hope I made myself clear.

11/03/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its strong because, and the fourth comentor illustrated my point perfectly about the connotation, because what george lucas did to star wars has such a negative connotation to most people, that calling something else lucas-ing and then asking people's opinion on what you've just labeled lucas-ing might 'poison the responses'.

11/03/2005 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

What do people against "Lucasing" comics think of guys like Mike Mignola and Jeff Smith redrawing their stories for trade paperbacks(those are the two examples I can think of). I don't have a problem with it, but then again, I've never bought Bone or Hellboy in singles. I also don't really care about George Lucas altering Star Wars. It's his to do with what he pleases, as far as I'm concerned. So, I have the complete opposite outlook on this as compared to Greg.

11/03/2005 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

I think it's ok if the changes are minor or could be described as clarifications*, if it's done well, if the original is still available and if the reader is made aware of the change.
The more you deviate from these 4 principles, the less ok it becomes.


Just for the fun of it, someone should send their copy back and demand their money back if it says "originally published as" on the inside cover.


* Which is why the reference to Lucas is unfortunate. Introducing a character one whole episode earlier is different from e.g. redrawing an unclear panel.

11/04/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This isn't Han shooting first, young Anakin's ghost, or gratuitous out-of-place CGI shots. Nor is it colourizing something that was black and white. The changes made clear up problems with the art, improving the flow and making it reflect what the script has explicitly stated inside a caption. (If I had to guess, it looks like the bird pages are by Tom Derenick) They are not bad changes. If a change objectively improves something, then I am all for it.

Which leaves us to why DC waited to make the changes, rather than making them before. Presumably, the only reason they were not implemented before Wonder Woman #219 was originally published was due to the fact that comic books are periodicals produced on a deadline. Plus, if DC missed shipping this issue, its ending would be spoiled by OMAC Project #4, making the deadline even more important to respect - illustrated by DC requiring a half-dozen art teams to finish the book on time.

It would have been nice for DC to have fixed the art so that we would never know, but it certainly wasn't worth their cost at the time Wonder Woman #219 was originally published.

11/04/2005 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Get ready, cuz I'm 'bout to get tautological on allz yallz.

The difference for me is that Wonder Woman #219 is just Wonder Woman #219 but Star Wars is fucking Star Wars. Who cares if WW gets tweaked? If it works better as a comic, great. But episodes 4 through 6 are too singular and iconic - their flaws are as important to me now as their strengths

11/04/2005 12:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Aaron Kashtan said...

This is not a new phenomenon. I understand that Marvel used to routinely edit their reprints to errors-- e.g. to fix Spider-Man being called Superman or Peter Palmer. I think they also fixed Captain America's infamous line about "only one of us is walking out of this room under his own power, and it won't be me!"

On the other hand, once you start correcting errors, it becomes easier to justify adding new material or cutting out old material. Marvel did both of those things as well, often with unfortunate results. In Classic X-Men they added new pages that were badly drawn and that interrupted the flow of the original story.

In more general terms, I think creators ought to have the right to re-edit, rework and rerelease their own stories. I think this can produce positive results; for example, the collected version of Poison River is supposed to be a substantial improvement on the original one, and P. Craig Russell's Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? is a big improvement over Dr. Strange Annual #1. But creators shouldn't try to suppress the original versions of those stories or to pretend that the original versions never existed, as George Lucas seems to be doing.

11/04/2005 01:25:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Foss said...

I don't mind it so much, since you can still fairly easily purchase WW #219 in floppy form. It might be a different situation twenty years from now, when the TPB is all that's available for any reasonable cost or efficiency, but by then I fully expect the changed panels to be available in a "sketchbook" section in the back of the trade.

Besides, it's not like they changed the story. If they went back and put Batman in place of Max Lord, I'd be a little ticked.

11/04/2005 02:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Hickey said...

The issue in question was obviously rushed to meet the deadline, because it couldn't be held back even a week due to the crossover stuff. There were something like 6 pencillers and 10 inkers on the issue, and that was obviously not the original intent - it was a rush job to get something out on time.
In those circumstances, I have no problem with anything being fixed for later printings, any more than I have a problem with authors fixing errors in their books in later editions (something that's happened for decades, if not centuries).
Of course, I don't think the story should have been published even once (*BAD* story), but that's a whole different issue...

11/04/2005 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

I think "George Lucasing" is a perfectly appropriate title, and I honestly can't imagine the connotations being very strong at all. It's the name of a mogul filmmaker, after all. Who is it offending? Other mogul filmmakers?

Yeah, Spielberg and the Weinsteins are gunning for you, Brian.

I realize nobody's perfect. Publishers, artists, et al., have deadlines and sometimes have to cut corners at the expense of optimally clear storytelling because taking the time to do it right might mean delays that result in a loss of profits. I work for a large corporation myself, so I understand that. However, I don't agree with it. I'm of the "get it right the first time" school of storytelling. Notice I said "storytelling." I mean movies, comics, whatever. Certainly, it's important to get the books out "on time" (which is completely arbitrary as the schedule is created by the editorial staff), but doing so at the expense of clear storytelling is, for a comic book publishing, cutting off your nose to spite your face. It would be better to give the creators another day or two to do what they need to do to even out the inconsistencies so that no one has to go to the added effort and expense to make "corrections."

However, if like George Lucas, they're making changes because they can and not because they have to, well, their property, their prerogative, but I think they should leave well enough alone. The changes Lucas made to the original Star Wars films didn't really improve or clarify anything. He made them because technology had advanced enough that he could make them. Personally, I wish he hadn't. That's pretty much my feeling with regards to comic changes, too, outside of fixing typos and printing errors, tweaking the coloring, etc.

11/04/2005 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

1. It's a shitty superhero comic, who cares?

2. It's a corporate product, they can change it whenever they want.

3. Even under the stretched banner of "art," artists should be able to revise or edit their work whenever they choose.

This is a non-issue and getting worked up about it is crazy.

11/04/2005 07:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Hickey said...

Yes, the schedule is created by the editorial staff, but in this case if this comic had come out even a week late, practically every single one of DC's superhero titles would also have had to come out a week late too, because pretty much everything they published for the next month depended on the ending to that issue.
Again, not that it matters - to my mind it's as far from a 'good comic' as you can get - but I can certainly see the rationale for getting anything that would tell that portion of the story out that week, and then reworking it for the trade (which presumably is being seen as the audience who want a permanent copy as opposed to the more disposable floppy).
Things like this are just part and parcel of doing a huge crossover - at least in an era in which the trade is a big part of the marketing strategy for comics. Whether a big megacrossover is in itself a good idea or not is a different matter...

11/04/2005 08:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

In the mainstream publishing industry, books frequently go through multiple printings, and with each printing, the publisher fixes errors that were in the previous printing. So when Greg says, "Once it's published, it's done," that's not entirely accurate. So long as they're not changing the story, it seems appropriate to me.

11/04/2005 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

This sort of thing has been going on for centuries, or at least as long as people have written things down. In fact it used to be much more rampant before things like copywrite laws and whatnot. Back in Shakespeare's day the directors of the plays used to cut out or re-write entire sections.

William Wordsworth rewrote poems later in life (The Prelude, I think?, Mary Shelley rewrote sections of Frankenstein for later printings, and I think Milton rewrote parts of Paradise Lost (if I can remember) depending on the printing. There's also lots of paintings that were displayed, taken down and things like hay-bails removed (and you can see them peaking through the overpainting because of years of fading).

I guess what bothers most people is whether or not the changes were made by the artist or writer themself as opposed to the publisher or an editor or someone else who didn't actually create the original. Additionally, if the changed version doesn't appeal to your sensibilities then it will seem of lesser quality. I know that the earlier versions of most rewritten works that I've mentioned appeal to me more because they're more liberal and daring. Ask me when I have a house and kids and you'll probably get a more conservative answer.

11/04/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Garnet said...

Lucas' revisions changed Star Wars for the worse; Han Solo was the one morally ambiguous character in the whole damn movie and that's one reason he was so popular. By removing Solo's initial shot at Greedo he not only undermines the work, he indicates he's forgotten what was good about it. (The same is true to a lesser extent with the disappearing guns in E.T.)
In the Wonder Woman case these are technical flaws that are being corrected; the end result, by all accounts, is improved. All the fixes show is that the editors were asleep at the switch the first time around. (Maybe we're all better off waiting for the trade if the monthly editions are going to be so slapdash.)

11/04/2005 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

I think Garnet's final point is possibly the most interesting of this entire discussion. If we acknowledge a shift in the industry away from floppies and toward trades, is it acceptable to regard the floppies as a "draft" version of the story that will eventually appear in the trade? Trades are already more durable, with better paper quality (and no ads). Will we reach a point where the trade is regarded as the final product, and the floppy is a "beta" version, or just marketing material to promote the trade?

11/04/2005 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

Joe Rice wrote:

1. It's a shitty superhero comic, who cares?

2. It's a corporate product, they can change it whenever they want.

3. Even under the stretched banner of "art," artists should be able to revise or edit their work whenever they choose.

This is a non-issue and getting worked up about it is crazy.


Preach on, Pinky, preach on.

Whitman spent his life writing and producing new editions of "Leaves of Grass." He put out a stack of different editions. Was that wrong or inappropriate? It was his dang book, after all.

Lucas had every right in the world to do what he did, because it's his dang movie. Sure, the changes were awful, but what does that have to do with anything? If I want to cover my oriental rug with a can of Sears WeatherBeater latex housepaint, I can. It'd be stupid, but that doesn't mean I can't do it.

The idea that the readers "own" the story is silly. The creators own it, and can do with it as they see fit. Even if what they see fit to do is lame and/or stupid.

Should they do it? My answer: if they want to, they should. If the new version is inferior to the old, they'll have to live with the grousing and possible alienation of fans.

11/04/2005 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what's the difference between this and a "director's cut" of a movie?

seems to me the reason so many Star Wars fans who didn't like Greedo shooting first was more that Lucas said that was going to be the only version out on DVD, so they were just pissed that they couldn't get the version they wanted on the best tech available...

This is all much ado about nothing.

11/04/2005 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

This actually is a pretty big issue.

Setting aside issues of relative quality and subject matter and going back to the very pertinent point raised by Garnet and Brian, DC knowingly released an inferior version of a product and allowed consumers to purchase it believing it to be the final version. At the least, consumers deserve an apology. In another industry, recalls or customer credits would probably rear their head.

Yes, this does have other implications for the comic industry. Trades are currently subsidized by monthlies. If the monthly version is significantly different (in this case inferior), then there is no incentive to purchase the monthly. We're seeing this play out in the movie industry, as theater attendance steadily drops in favor of watching the DVD.

Is the shift from monthlies to trades good or bad? I don't know. But I do know that stiffing consumers by selling them admittedly inferior product at full price is bound to have repercussions.

The alternative, of course, is for the publisher to close their eyes, hold their noses, and publish the "crap" version in the trade, thereby failing to publicly acknowledge that the original version is crap. So is it better to have a revised "good" version or simply be saddled with the "crap" version in both formats?

From the consumer perspective, it's probably best to avoid the product entirely and go read a novel or watch TV ... wait, did I just sum up the comic industry?

11/04/2005 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad said...

"Whitman spent his life writing and producing new editions of "Leaves of Grass." He put out a stack of different editions. Was that wrong or inappropriate?"

Yes! He should have got it right the first time, the hack! In the immortal words of Homer Simpson "Leaves of Grass my ass!"

"Should they do it? My answer: if they want to, they should. If the new version is inferior to the old, they'll have to live with the grousing and possible alienation of fans."

And their millions upon millions of dollars. Well, if they're George Lucas.

11/04/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"DC knowingly released an inferior version of a product and allowed consumers to purchase it believing it to be the final version."

That strikes me as quite a stretch. The consumers never had any good reason to assume it would be the final version, and any such assumption on the part of the consumer would be unrealistic.

If that degree of permanence is so important to a comic buyer, they're in the wrong hobby. Perhaps they should be collecting paintings by dead people instead.

11/06/2005 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

That strikes me as quite a stretch. The consumers never had any good reason to assume it would be the final version, and any such assumption on the part of the consumer would be unrealistic.
It's unrealistic to expect a professional comics company to publish a finished comic, and not some half-arsed incomplete version? How so?

DC have taken people's money twice for the same comic, only one was incomplete. Why aren't people allowed to be annoyed by shelling out money for that first, unfinished, version? And why are they supposed to have known that it would get "remastered" before tpb publication?

11/07/2005 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

Thanks, kelvingreen. I was going to post some lengthy analogy about buying something and then having the person behind you in line get a superior version of the same product, but your post is more pithy.

Yes, we DO have the expectation that when we purchase something (anything at all) we are receiving the best possible version. If I purchased a substandard product -- one that is clearly acknowledged as substandard by the company itself through reissuing an amended version -- I am generally allowed to return that product or I am offered another form of redress.

That's not mandatory, by any stretch, unless damages can be proved and legal action is taken. However, companies who continually do this risk driving away their consumers. And when you're talking about a rapdily dwindling group, it's foolish to risk any of them.

11/07/2005 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Setting aside issues of relative quality and subject matter and going back to the very pertinent point raised by Garnet and Brian, DC knowingly released an inferior version of a product and allowed consumers to purchase it believing it to be the final version. At the least, consumers deserve an apology. In another industry, recalls or customer credits would probably rear their head.

Hardly. Sin City Special Edition DVD, coming soon! Hell, J. M. Barrie added an entire chapter to the end of Peter Pan after its first edition; something that no one remembers. Apple changes its iPod lineup every year. Massively-Multiplayer online RPGs like World of Warcraft are released without features described in the manual that comes in the same box.

Consumers do have every reason to believe they are getting the final product. Consumers SHOULD be getting the final product. This does not mean that they are, or that the producer of the product is required to give it to them.

11/12/2005 09:38:00 AM  
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