§ January 25th, 2023 § Filed under dc comics, publishing § 12 Comments

So I was rereading the Grant Morrison/Charles Troug Animal Man series, because why wouldn’t I, when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before…or paid so little attention to way back when because I didn’t have a blog at the time on which to mountainize this molehill.

I like spotting the seams of comics production in the finished product, sometimes. Like the occasional coloring note accidentally left in the margin of a page. Or, for an example I can actually show you, when an entire caption is added to a page to keep a story from entirely slagging a company’s bread-and-butter.

And then there’s just simple word replacement, like in Animal Man #1 (1988) where the word “ass” (presumably) is substituted with the word “butt.”

Here are a couple closer looks, where it’s easy to see the lettering mismatches with the rest of the book, along with the slightly-off spacing.

It’s just a little amusing, is all, not quite on the level of some very obviously (and frankly, sloppily) relettered dialogue on a splash page in Preacher where some purposefully vulgar content replaced something that must have been even more appalling. But even mentioning Preacher adds to the contrast between this early prudishness language versus the oh, the places they’d go once the Vertigo label gets slapped on the front cover.

It also somewhat brings to mind this bit from Mr. Show (please pardon the presence of a Jan. 6 participant):

I’m of two minds here, where either they could have changed it back, because really does it matter; or it’s fine as it is, a visible measure of restraint in a medium that often excessively goes in the opposite direction in the name of “mature content.”

Not to go all “I’m not a prude, but” on you here — I mean, I’ve been known to say “poop,” quietly, when no one else is in the room — but there have been times when it felt like someone on a “not for kids” comic book really wanted to test that freedom and give us wall-to-wall naughty words, which can get a tad wearying after a while. I mean, it’s fine, whatever, but reading “fuck” thirty times in the space of a couple of pages kinda undermines whatever impact it has. (Except in the Nick Fury comics by Garth Ennis, where somehow it’s hilarious.)

This is all just to say it was, in its way, quaint to see the word “butt” pasted into that Animal Man comic. Grant Morrison and editor Karen Berger, I appreciate your “butts!”

Er, you know what I mean.

12 Responses to “#ReleaseTheAssCut.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    I hear you on Civ II, Mike, although I do think Civ IV + the Beyond the Sword expansion edged it a little bit. I do miss the Elvis advisor, though. Plus, if you remember, when you created entertainers in your cities, they were also Elvises.

    I also miss the palace you could build in the early editions of the game.

  • Chris V says:

    When Animal Man was released, it was a non-code approved comic but not a “mature readers” book (like Sandman). Probably a lot of people forget that considering Animal Man has become associated with Vertigo and the Morrison issues were eventually collected as Trades under the Vertigo imprint. It wasn’t until Jamie Delano took over writing the book that Animal Man received the “mature readers” label.
    So, I guess what I’m saying is that DC was unsure how far they could go with the middle ground between comic code acceptable and “mature readers” titles, and decided that was a word too far into the realm of “mature readers” books.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Wasn’t there an unwritten rule in the early days of the comic book industry to generally try to avoid the use of the word “flick” on the off chance that the ink might smudge between the letters “l” and “i”… ?

  • Daniel T says:

    Not familiar with the Preacher example. More on it?

  • Mikester says:

    Chris V. – Yeah, it wasn’t full-on “mature readers” yet, but the upscale formats at the time tended to push the edge just slightly more than the regular newsstand cousins. Omega Men got complaints at the time for the violence in the early issues (which is hard to imagine now, but y’know), and I think there was some mildly harsher language in those first couple of Vigilante issues (which I should finish reading someday). And that’s not even counting Naked Madame Xanadu gettin’ her ghost on in that early issue of Spectre (granted there was a printing error leaving her more…exposed than intended, but even so it wasn’t something you’d see in Superboy.)

    Of course, in Justice League (International) around that time, you had Guy Gardner saying “I’m pissed!” so DC was a little all over the map then in terms of what they thought they could get away with.

    Sean – Yes, absolutely, I’ve heard that plenty a’time, though as printing has improved, the danger of that happening has dropped. But honestly, I’m surprised Marvel with with “Clint” so early in the game, considering their printing usually sucked.

    Daniel T. – never fear, I tracked down the original Preacher page and I’ll have it up on Friday’s post.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Marvel with with “Clint””

    I’d read about that! it was un under-used name UNTIL Clint Barton.

    I was surprised to recently see “CLUNT” used as a sound effect in a Captain America comic.

    “Omega Men got complaints at the time for the violence in the early issues”

    I remember that dead/splattered alien baby issue!

    “and I think there was some mildly harsher language in those first couple of Vigilante”

    and also towards the end of the run, when it had a mature readers label on it.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Wasn’t DC Comics’ 1980s Vigilante(s)–if memory serves, there were at least two guys who ended up in that costume…I remember that Adrian Chase was one of them–just an attempt to cash in on the success of Marvel Comics’ Punisher?

    I always preferred the Golden Age Vigilante cowboy character–Greg Saunders–from the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

  • Andrew says:

    I started reading DC in 76 and things were pretty benign overall until an issue of Green Lantern appeared (early 80s I think, definitely before Crisis) where someone in outer space ‘blew up’…. I remember thinking it was so unlike anything I’d seen in DC up to that point because it was SO graphic and made me think of what an EC comic from the pre code 50s must have been like (I was in high school and there was no internet so I was extrapolating). Of course, it would only be a few years before new GL Kyle’s girlfriend was ‘friged’ which to be honest was a huge turn off as a reader. Writing this, I reflect that I sound a bit prudish, I suppose, but both of these were so glaringly different than business as usual that it was really jarring.

    But to the point of your posts, it seemed that DC was just trying to do whatever it could do to stay in the market even if that meant trying out gross out visuals and more mature language.

  • Ozma G. says:

    As I recall it, in the issue of Avengers that turned Hawkeye into Goliath and revealed his real name to be CLINT there was a closeup panel of him striking the villain with an extended middle finger accompanied by the sound effect “FLICK!” Roy Thomas and Gene Colan were in an odd mood that month.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Ozma G. :

    It might have just been Gene Colan having fun, and Roy Thomas being unaware.

    There’s also the notorious Gene Colan-drawn cover for Daredevil no. 48. While Stilt-Man is dropping a limp Daredevil from a great height, a building in the background features the letters:”asspain” in neon lights. Somebody at the Comics Code Authority either had
    a sense of humor, or else they were sleeping on the job.

    And there are tons of stories of Wally Wood turning in beautifully rendered pages to E.C. Comics while trying to sneak a panel or two of risque or more-than-risque art in there–usually as a joke to see if Bill Gaines and/or Al Feldstein and/or Harvey Kurtzman would notice and have the panels touched up. And the Wally Wood /Power Girl story is legendary–where Wood enhanced Ric Estrada and Keith Giffen’s layout art in issue after
    issue of All-Star Comics making Power Girl the most buxom superheroine in the DC Universe, while perhaps riffing on his own creation, Sally Forth.



  • Snark Shark says:

    “Happy trail”

    I wonder if they were aware that has ANOTHER meaning?

    Sean Mageean: “Vigilante(s)–if memory serves, there were at least two guys”

    Oh yeah, there might have been three! One replacement died pretty quickly, I can’t remember if Adrian Chase had 2 runs at it, or there WAS a third for awhile.