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?
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.
COMIC LEGEND: The Avengers was originally rated R by the MPAA.
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).
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…
In the British release, this is how he is seemingly killed…
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.
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!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: What is the secret origin of “Bazinga!” from The Big Bang Theory?
On the next page, how did a scheduling problem rob us of an Avengers crossover?
COMIC LEGEND: Kurt Busiek planned an Avengers crossover but it couldn’t come out because it was approved too late to be topical.
In 2001-2002, Kurt Busiek wrote an epic Avengers storyline involving Kang. The story is typically referred to as “The Kang Dynasty,” but I don’t know if that was ever the official title.
It was voted into the top ten Greatest Avengers Stories ever told when we did a poll back in 2013. It really is a cool story (any story that involves a giant Captain America fighting a giant Kang has got to be awesome, I say).
However, interestingly enough, this was NOT the first idea Busiek had for a major Kang story (EDITED TO ADD: And, as Kurt mentions in the comments, it was not even his first major Kang story in the Avengers, as Kang was a big part of the 1998-99 maxi-series Avengers Forever by Busiek, Roger Stern, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, which finished #5 on the Greatest Avengers Stories list, so obviously I should have recalled it). No, following up Busiek’s epic Ultron-centered story, “Ultron Unlimited” in 1999 (#4 on that aforementioned list of Greatest Avengers Stories), Busiek had a plan for a major Kang story that would become a companywide crossover. The only problem was one that is quite familiar to Kang…time itself.
At New York Comic Con this past year, Kurt Busiek revealed at a Marvel panel that he had a companywide crossover planned called Y2Kang, where Kang would revert the entire Marvel Universe to the year 1900 at New Year’s Day, 2000.
The problem was that Busiek did not receive APPROVAL on the crossover until it was too late to actually get the book out by the books cover-dated January 2000.
So instead, Busiek ended up doing the Maximum Security crossover later in 2000…
I liked Kang Dynasty a lot, so I can’t bemoan this TOO much, but it definitely sounds like it would have been a cool idea!
Thanks to Bleeding Cool and Newsarama for their coverage of the NYCC panel where Busiek discussed his plans! And thanks, of course, to Kurt Busiek for revealing this neat info! And double thanks for pointing out the Avengers Forever aspect of the story!
COMIC LEGEND: Neil Gaiman took Bill Sienkiewicz’s story pages in The Sandman: Endless Nights out of order.
In 2003, Neil Gaiman did an awesome graphic novel called The Sandman: Endless Nights, where he would do a short story about a different member of the Endless with a different legendary comic book artist.
For Delirium, he worked with Bill Sienkiewicz…
It was a cool story, but the next year, Neil Gaiman revealed to Dave Sim in Following Cerebus #5 the even more fascinating way that Gaiman wrote the story. You see, Gaiman had a script for the story and he gave it Sienkiewicz, who then drew the story according to the script. However, as Gaiman took the pages in, he would lay them out on the ground and he decided to re-arrange the pages and then just re-script them based on the order he came up with. He continued that with the new pages as they came in (letting Sienkiewicz know that he was doing it this way, of course).
Isn’t that just fascinating? Only with a pairing of two guys like Gaiman and Sienkiewicz would an idea like that even have a chance at working!
Gaiman joked to Sim that he told the story to Frank Miller who remarked that had HE thought of it back when he was doing Elektra: Assassin with Sienkiewicz, the final book would have looked a whole lot different!
EDITED TO ADD: After we posted this story, editor Shelly Bond (who edited the story), Neil Gaiman and Bill Sienkiewicz all added some cool information to this story on Twitter!
Bond: Bill almost had a coronary.
Gaiman: It was even better than that. I got Bill to give me pages he’d rejected and worked them in too. It was so much fun.
Sienkiewicz: In keeping with our talks re OCD, creation thru destruction, sense thru nonsense, truth thru lies. Good Times.
Thanks to Travis Pelkie for turning me on to this story! And thanks to Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim for sharing it. And thanks to Bill Sienkiewicz for just being awesome in general. Also, thanks to Juan and Jim for correcting a stupid mistake I made by posting the wrong Endless Nights story at first.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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