Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Memory, and Mistakes!

It's funny, the tricks your memory can play on you, even on such a little thing as an old comic panel. For example, I knew Deadpool kicks Captain America in the crotch, but I pictured this:
...and was able to knock it together in about five minutes...
In actual fact, the panel looked like this:
I like the flag they went with for this.
I had completely forgotten that Pool was wearing some kind of living lizard armor. ("I think I'm going to scream like a little fairy," he says after it crawls onto him.) And you don't get to see Deadpool's face or eyes, so his expression could be open to interpretation: is he overjoyed at taking down Cap? Amused at his dirty trick? Ashamed for stooping so low? Or does bringing free will back to the universe weigh a little more heavily on Pool's shoulders? Well, I'm afraid working with expressionless action figures, your guess is (at least) as good as mine.

This isn't the first time I've done this, either: my mental picture of a certain panel turns out to be completely wrong. Or, I remember what happened, but the details are wrong; and I usually remember the panel in question as larger, and probably cooler, than they turned out to be on the actual page. Remember that panel way back in Claremont and Byrne's Uncanny X-Men, where Wolverine rises from the sewage, claws bared, ready for payback? If you've read comics for a long time, probably. But go back and look at it: I bet it's not as big a panel as you remember, and while it's still a dramatic moment and went a long way to turning Wolverine into the hit he would become; is it as dramatic as you remember? Or did you think he was more torn up, bloodier? In the version in your head, did Wolvie emerge from the sewers, bodies of sliced Hellfire Club guards floating around him? Was he masked? Is he even wearing the costume you thought he was?

Well, even if your memory is going to hell and/or romanticizing the hell out of old comics, there's not much you can do about it, right? I mean, once the comic is printed, it's not like you could go back and correct it, is it? Hmm. Maybe.
Could anyone get away with this today?
Back when Marvel was ramping up to the first Secret Wars, most of the participating heroes were taken by an alien device, usually at the end the April 1984 dated issue. But the Mighty Thor appeared to be plotted ahead of that, so in the March issue...something happens. Something so big Walt Simonson couldn't even tell you about it yet! It happens early on, though: the blank spot is page two, and by page five, "A couple of weeks later," Thor is back and visiting Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan. (Yeah, Thor made it through Secret Wars without any big changes, except maybe the little seed of trying to make the Enchantress a more sympathetic character. I also thought a lot of books took a month without the heroes that had disappeared, but I might be off there.)

This panel probably isn't missing as often as the Marvel Value Stamps, but I wonder.
In the next month's issue, #342, across from a full page ad for Secret Wars, the mystery panels were "revealed." And by the way, I love the way Thor's flying in that panel. Aerodynamics are for lesser beings. But it's all in fun, and that and the chatty, friendly-written letters page work to bring readers into the fold. It's not the bombastic Stan Lee hype Marvel had usually used, it's more like, hey, here's a little secret, come in close.

Of course, not too long after these issues, began the idea of comics as investments that needed to be bagged and boarded and in pristine unread condition. The very notion of hacking up a comic? Unheard of! Even as a nod and a wink to the reader. And now with letter pages gone the way of the Hostess ads, where would these corrections come from? Unless...

Let's make up an example: suppose during a big event like Secret Invasion; a character in a mid-level book, like She-Hulk or the Initiative, stumbles across something that would be a big reveal in the main book. Say, Triathlon accidentally discovers the Skrull Queen. It would be in character, since he had the Skrull-spotting goggles. Plus, that way when the Queen's revealed in SI two months later, Triathlon wouldn't look like an ass for missing it. But, understandably, the writers might not want to tip their hand yet, or waste a big reveal in a secondary book. What to do, what to do...

Panel one: Triathlon recaps his powers, where he's at in the story, and what his goggles can do.

Panel two: He sees a number of other characters, including the hidden Queen.

Panel three: "Gasp! Choke! The Skrull Queen! It's--"

Panel four: "Find out who is the Skrull Queen, in Secret Invasion #1, or print the panels online at some date after SI's sale date!"

In an ensemble book like the Initiative, this could work a little better, since the writer could then cut away from Triathlon (or 3-D Man, if he's calling himself that now...) and see what Ant-Man or Taskmaster or someone else is up to. It might be nice if they also reprinted the mystery panel in a later issue, but that seems like a fun way to have your cake and eat it too, and hype up your web traffic. On the other hand, there would be work involved; co-ordinating the continuity, setting up the website, and then the readers have to get involved as well. And then, would the online panel be something that's going to be available to everyone, or does the reader have to put in a code from the Initiative issue? (Like that wouldn't get posted somewhere...)

It's an idea with pros and cons, and there very likely are just as many valid reasons not to do it. That said, I don't think Marvel would, anyway. Even with blogs and Q & A's at Newsarama or Comic Book Resources; Marvel as a whole seems more...stand-offish in recent years. I don't know. Marvel seems to want their comics to be like little movies, and anything like editorial caption boxes or cut-and-paste corrections that reminds the reader yes, you are reading a comic; are not particularly welcome.

Before I wrap this up, here's another "Mighty Marvel Correction Kit!" from the letter's page for Thor #354. I'm going to run it in it's entirety, since the letter writer explains the reason for a fix in #351. That's been reprinted, hasn't it? It wasn't corrected in the trade, was it? That would be pretty damn impressive...

And there's a statement of ownership for good measure! Let's see...under E. "Total distribution: (Sum of C and D) Average no. of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 171,480. Single issue nearest to filing date: 241,355." Based on the November 2008 Marvel Month-to-Month sales from the Beat, there wasn't a new issue of Thor that month, but the number one book was Ultimatum #1 with 114,230. Way to go, direct market! Thanks for nothing, you...Am I reading this wrong? Maybe the Thor statement counts international sales or something else not counted in Ultimatum's total. Or maybe sales were driven up back in the day by kids cutting up their comics and cutting and pasting corrections...

Panels and pages from Thor #341, "The Past is a Bucket of Ashes" #342 "The Last Viking" (per the last issue blurb!) and #354 "Pickin' Up the Pieces" All written and drawn by Walter Simonson, letters by John Workman Jr, colors by Christie Scheele, edited by Mark Gruenwald.

Deadpool gives Cap the business in Deadpool #25, "Dead Reckoning, part 3: What the World Needs Now..." Written by Joe Kelly, pencils by Walter McDaniel, inks by Whitney McFarland, Rodney Ramos, Walden Wong, Scott Elmer, and Scott Koblish.

I was going to post a similar correction from Captain America, but I found the one with the error and not the correction. Ironically, I had the one with the correction and not the error as a kid. OK, maybe not so ironically. Some other time, maybe we'll see if I can find #312, which was also the first appearance of Flag-Smasher.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

I know that you can't see Deadpool's expression as he kicks Cap in the nads, but the expression on Cap's face more than makes up for it.