The 5 Weirdest Changes Demanded by Comic Book Editors

By Diana McCallum

We’ve all had those moments reading our favorite comics when we notice something weird - there’s an unexplainable retcon, heroes are acting out of character or, horror of horrors, facts are wrong!?! Our knee jerk reaction is to blame the artist or writer when this craziness pops up but sometimes this strangeness comes straight from the top and there’s no one to blame except the top brass at editorial. Like the time …


5. Wonder Woman Had To Stop Doing Bondage (In Chains)


If you’ve ever read a Wonder Woman comic from the 40’s you won’t be surprised to learn that Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, loved bondage, dude thought it was swell as hell. That’s not speculation, that’s just a documented fact, and it showed in his work as he had Wonder Woman get chained up a lot, always in new and interesting ways because you don’t want your superhero bondage to get boring. In fact if you go through the early issues of Wonder Woman you’ll see she was tied up an average of twice an issue for the first six months.


Several comic panels of Wonder Woman in bondage.
[Just another day in the bondage office.]

Those scenarios are all pretty extreme, but nothing tops the bondage-ness of issue #6 where Diana was put in a sex mask, had her whole body chained up and was then thrown into a tank of water.


[The epitome of “this never happens to Superman”.]

Well it was around the time of the sex mask issue that William Marston received the below letter from the president of DC informing him that he had to cut down how often Wonder Woman is chained up by “50-75%” BUT she could still totally be restrained with other things and he even included a list of ways to do that. Screw the Declaration of Independence, this is the greatest historical document of all time.

[There's a reason they were called Sensation Comics]

The implications of this letter are absolutely incredible, detailing the fact that Marston and Gaines met on multiple occasions to discuss the exact percentage of frequency that Wonder Woman could be tied up with chains. It’s fine to restrain her but by god man, not just by chains, are you insane? Mix things up a bit! And by a bit they mean exactly 50 to 75%!


And shoutout to Gaines’s assistant, Miss Roubicek, who walked into work that day and was told to come up with a list of ways to “keep women confined or enclosed without the use of chains” and have it on his desk by noon. The real hero of this story.


4. DC Thought Lois Lane Looked Pregnant and Unpleasantly Sexy


So this one isn’t so much weird as it is sad.


In 2011 a whole slew of court documents came out in the dispute between the Siegel estate and DC Comics over the copyright to Superman, including some correspondence from the 40’s which at best is entertaining and at worst shows the all too real sexism that has existed in comics since the start. Fun!


In a letter to Joel Shuster and Jerry Siegel, Superman editor Whitney Ellsworth had a lot to say about Shuster’s depiction of Lois Lane, mostly that she was “unpleasantly sexy” that “she looks pregnant” and even worse that she should be drawn like other heroines who follow “a certain formula that makes them look desirable and cute.”

[This is what Lois thinks of your comments Ellsworth!]

There's a lot to unpack in these documents, but here are the choice highlights.


“…we find that a great deal hasn’t been done to make Lois look better. She looks pregnant. Murray suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be. She is much too stocky and much, MUCH too unpleasantly sexy. Please call it to the attention of Joe and his lads that the better artists in this field draw their heroines more or less by a certain formula that makes them look desirable and cute … by drawing the shoulders wider than the hips they give the girl a lisesome quality that is absent when the accent is on hips. Also, the waistline is drawn higher than it would be in real life, and the legs are longer and slimmer.”


It’s almost surreal to see an editor point out that there’s a formula to draw women like a “tasty dish” and that regular human women in comics should have a waistline that “is drawn higher than it would be in real life, and the legs are longer and slimmer.” If anyone somehow thought that sexism in comics is a new thing, well surprise, it’s actually always been there. *screams*

3. Both Green Arrows Are Meta-Humans For Reasons


When you think of Green Arrow you probably think, bad goatee, funny hat, human, pretty good at arrowing, definitely human. Well, you'd be wrong. In the year 2000 DC decided that both Green Arrows were now meta-humans and they always had been.


The weirdest thing about this retcon was how it was rolled out. DC could have done the logical thing and published a story where it’s revealed that Oliver Queen and Connor Hawke were secretly always meta-humans. But instead they chose to Gaslight readers. Characters just started calling them both meta-humans all the freaking time without explanation. One time Robin even called Connor a “Major League Meta-Human All Star”, which is a pretty over the top description for the power of 'good at arrows.’

[If the guy who shoots thin wooden sticks can’t save us we’re all doomed!]

Similar assertions of the two having superpowers popped up in Kingdom Come and Green Arrow Year One, making many a reader start yelling “what?!” at their comic books. Well, if their comic books could have talked back they would have explained that DC editorial decided the GA’s were too boring and needed some sprucing up, as writer Chuck Dixon explained on his blog.


The metahuman deal for Ollie and Connor was editorially driven. I was told to hype this in the ‘Year One’ annual I did for GA. … Love it or hate it, DC’s idea was to make both GAs more like superheroes and less like one-trick ponies. There is an unstated fear at DC (unstated until now) that their heroes are irrelevant because their powers are antiquated. … I think their fears are unfounded. Characterization is the key and DC’s superheroes have that. The powers are secondary.


The next big event for Green Arrow after this was Quiver, written by Kevin Smith, which involved Oliver being brought back to life via a combination of demon magic and The Spectre scraping bits of Ollie’s DNA off of Superman’s cape. After that it seemed pretty dumb to insist he had to be a meta-human to be interesting and the whole thing was dropped.

2. No One In the New 52 Can be Married


This one all started in September 2013 when JH Williams and W Haden Blackman announced they would be leaving their award-winning run on Batwoman due to editorial changes and DC not allowing them to depict the marriage of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer. The internet lambasted DC for being anti-gay marriage and DC responded in a way no one expected, saying that they weren’t against gay marriage, they were against all marriages in the entire DC universe.

[Artist’s depiction of announcement.]

Dan Didio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, went on record to say that heroes shouldn’t get married, as they have to sacrifice their personal lives and happiness for their jobs, so classic couples like Lois & Clark and Barry & Iris were no longer married. In fact in the New 52 the only married hero was Animal Man of all people, and things were not going well marriage-wise for the … blue spandexed creature guy (I don’t know a lot about Animal Man, if he’s got a better alias please let me know).


Whether you agree with DC or not on whether heroes can be happily married, at the very least they have continued to back their stance on the matter, refusing to let even Batman and Catwoman be legally married instead they just like, have marriage vibes. At the very least they are common law.

1. No More Exclamation Marks


Sit around little kiddies and hear the tale of Stan Lee versus exclamation points!


The year was 1971. The man was the generalissimo himself, Stan Lee. The problem was that he thought Marvel’s comics about stretchy guys and web-slinging teenagers were too darn juvenile. Things needed to get serious at Marvel. Changes needed to be made. Those damn exclamation marks had to go! go.

[You may be hungry for planets but that’s no reason to yell.]

No, seriously, that happened. Despite the fact that exclamation points have been a staple in comics since literally day one and are kind of key in selling the excitement of any given situation, Stan Lee decided that Marvel didn’t need them and immediately banned every last one. So immediately, that even issues already laid out and ready to print had to be changed.


Except whoever was promoted to the illustrious job of “exclamation point remover” did a pretty half-ass job. They left in all the exclamation points in the middle of the speech balloons and deleted all end punctuation entirely, creating what can only be called grammatical nonsense for two issues of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.

[Finally a comic book for the truly mature and refined.]

The ban was lifted two months later, never to be yelled or spoken of again.

 

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