Totally Recalled: 15 Comics the Stores Had to Send Back

Publishing comics is an enterprise that requires many, many steps. Getting every part in place, from the cover to the interior art and to the reader's hands, requires lots of coordination, and it's fortunate that all goes well ... most of the time. But there are times, despite everyone's best efforts, when an error gets by and the only way to fix it is to pull the book back and reprint it. Sometimes, it's an after-the-fact decision that an image doesn't represent the company in its best light. Occasionally, it's the discovery of sabotage from one of the creators. Sometimes, it's a belated call that the project doesn't meet broader corporate goals.

Production errors can creep in, like pages printed out of order, or missing entirely. The wrong bar code, the wrong house ad, even the indicia -- the fine print that spells out the title's name and issue number, publisher's name, address and corporate officers, and copyright information -- can be reason enough to send the book back to the printer. Here are 15 examples of comics with errors that led to their being recalled and reprinted.

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Action Comics #869 soda pop reissue
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Action Comics #869 soda pop reissue

The cover of Action Comics (Volume 1) #869 (November 2008) shows a lovely moment: Jonathan Kent and son Clark bonding, sharing beers. That couldn't have happened pre-Crisis. The turning point in Clark's life, when he went from "Superboy" to "Superman," came when his father Jonathan and mother Martha passed away when he was in his teens, as told in Superman (Volume 1) #161 (May 1963).

That changed post-Crisis, which had the Kents alive well into Superman's adulthood. But the cover image of Superman and his father drinking alcohol led DC to recall Action #869. It was reissued with the labels on the bottles changed to read "SODA POP."

14 X-MEN GOLD #1

X-Men Gold

In 2017, Marvel launched X-Men Gold. But the first issue quickly drew unwanted attention when readers noticed coded images in the panels. Artist Ardian Syaf, an Indonesian, included numbers and symbols referring to political protests in Indonesia and a verse from the Qu'ran that, in one translation, declares Muslims must not accept Christians as their leaders. There also is a dig at Kitty Pryde, a Jewish character.

Marvel swiftly moved, issuing a statement saying those images were added "without knowledge behind its reported meanings" and declared they would be edited out of digital editions and future printings. Marvel also fired Syaf, who had completed three issues. Marvel lined up replacement artists starting with issue #4.


In 2015, for The Joker's 75th anniversary in comics, DC announced he would be featured on 25 variant covers for its June releases. The one for Batgirl (Volume 4) #41 (August 2015), was by artist Rafael Albuquerque. It was an homage to 1988's The Killing Joke, in which The Joker attacks Barbara Gordon as a ploy to play mind games with Batman. Fan complaints were loud. Batgirl has evolved since 1988, and the cover recast her as a victim.

The cover also didn't fit the tone of the modern Batgirl title, which presents her as a young twentysomething college student with lots of self-confidence and drive. After four days of complaints, DC announced that it withdrew the cover, at Albuquerque's request.


DC Comics Presents Legion of Super-Heroes #1

The Legion of Super-Heroes faced a frightening threat in the storyline "The Legion of the Damned": The Blight, a race of techno zombies that infect all they touch and spread it from world to world. The story, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, drawn by Oliver Coipel and inked by Lanning, led into Legion Lost.

"The Legion of the Damned" storyline wound through four issues, Legion of Super-Heroes (Volume 4) #122 and #123 (December 1999-January 2000) and Legionnaires #79  and #80 (January-February 2000). It was collected in DC Comics Presents Legion of Super-Heroes 100-Page Spectacular #1 (June 2011), but with the individual issues out of order. DC notified retailers to recall and destroy the copies, and reissued the book.


Return of the Jedi Marvel Comics adaptation

Star Wars and its spinoffs have been successes not just in movie theaters but in comics, ever since Marvel published the first adaptation in July 1977. Coordination between Lucasfilm and Marvel and other comics publishers has been famously tricky, with the film studio trying mightily to keep story developments under wraps.

The Return of the Jedi comics adaptation -- formally, Marvel Comics Super Special #27 (1983) -- posed a special problem. Star Mark Hamill found the book on sale a month before the movie was released and passed word to Lucasfilm, the late Carol Kalish told Comics Buyer's Guide in 1983. Kalish, Marvel's direct sales division, run by Kalish, moved to get the book off the shelves.


Another film tie-in, The Matrix Comic Book Preview, fell victim to second thoughts. The Matrix film, released in 1999, was a blockbuster hit with global grosses topping $460 million. A 16-page promotional comic was commissioned, to be given away at theaters showing the film. It included a cover by Geof Darrow; the webcomic story "Deja Vu" by Paul Chadwick from the movie's website; posters by Ted McKeever, Bill Sienkiewicz and Aron Weisenfeld; and house ads promoting the movie, soundtrack album and comics.

However, there was a change of heart, as the contents were regarded as too mature. Instead of being distributed at movie theaters, the comic was withdrawn and copies were destroyed.


Death DC Comics Vertigo

Death of the Endless was introduced as a supporting character in Sandman (Volume 2) #8 (August 1989). This depiction of Death is significantly different than most, a male skeleton in a long robe wielding a scythe. This Death is a perky goth girl with pale white skin, thick messy hair, and an ankh necklace.

Death proved popular enough to headline several miniseries and one-shots. The first, Death: The High Cost of Living (March-May 1993) followed Death on her once-a-century sabbatical to live on Earth as a human. But issue #3 had pages 19 and 20 out of order, so it was corrected and reprinted.


Herobear and the Kid 2013 Annual

In 2002, BOOM! Studios brought out a whimsical all-ages series, Herobear and the Kid. The six issues followed the adventures of a kid named Tyler, who family moves into a mansion after his grandfather passes away. Tyler gets a busted pocket watch and a stuffed animal, which grows into a lively full-sized talking, flying polar bear with a red cape when its nose is pressed.

Herobear and the Kid appeared sporadically as creator Mike Kunkel did other projects. But he did Herobear and the Kid 2013 Annual for its BOOM!'s kids' imprint KaBOOM. Unfortunately, the issue had page 7 missing because page 5 appeared twice. Also, the price was printed as $4.99 instead of the correct $3.99.


Bruce Wayne murderer

In 2002, the Batman books kicked off a major crossover with the one-shot special Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, in which Bruce Wayne and bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux are framed for the death of his girlfriend Vesper Fairchild. The story continued into "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" through Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: Gotham Knights, Nightwing, Birds of Prey and Robin from March to September 2002.

The 2014 collection of the storyline, Batman: Bruce Wayne -- Murderer?, was recalled because of a couple of major slipups. Two whole issues, Detective Comics #768 and Gotham Knights #29, were left out. Not only that, the ones that were included were out of order.


Scooby-Doo has been an enduring franchise since the debut of its first animated TV show, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?  in 1969. It spun off numerous sequels -- animated shows, movies and live-action films. So it was a natural property for comics as well, with books published by Gold Key, Archie and DC.

Since Scooby-Doo began as a Saturday morning cartoon, DC naturally wanted all aspects of the comic to be kid-friendly. So a house ad for the decidedly mature readers Absolute V for Vendetta collection -- which touted an August 2009 release -- prompted a recall of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? #7 (May 2011). Retailers were asked to "destroy these copies on receipt."


Green Lantern (Volume 5) #1 New 52

In 2011, DC took a bold step that it didn't take in 1985 when it rebooted the DC Universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths. For the New 52 reboot, all the titles in its lineup were canceled and restarted with new first issues.

The cover of the first issue of Green Lantern (Volume 5) had a closeup of a pensive Sinestro, staring at the power ring on his left hand. But there was an odd flaw on the image: a teardrop-shaped loop in green just above Sinestro's right ear. Recalled Comics says the error showed up in about 10 percent to 15 percent of the press run, and that DC recalled those issues and issued replacements.


Spider-Man's Tangled Web The Thousand #1

Marvel tried something different with Spider-Man in 2001: the anthology title Spider-Man's Tangled Web. Instead of focusing on Spider-Man, it explored the lives of his supporting characters, allies and villains. Spider-Man himself was a minor presence in the tales. And the story arcs were written and drawn by creators better known for adult fare like Vertigo titles or for independent comics.

Such a prestige project called for special presentation, which is why the first issue, Spider-Man's Tangled Web: The Thousand  #1 (June 2001) was recalled. The cover card stock was matte instead of glossy, so the issue was pulled back, the cover reprinted on the proper stock, and reissued.


Vermillion #12

In 1996, DC tried branching out with Helix, a line of comics dedicated to science fiction and science fantasy. Sales weren't great, and the line was dropped two years later. Transmetropolitan and other titles moved over to Vertigo.

One of the Helix titles, Vermillion, was written by Nebula and Hugo award-winning science-fiction novelist Lucius Shepard. Vermillion was set in an alternate future city of the same name that sprawled so much, it comprised a universe unto itself. The series ended with its 12th issue (September 1997), which was printed with a mock letters page full of dummy Latin text. It was reprinted, but with another error; the story began on page 8. So it was reprinted again.


Avengers vs. Infinity variant

Avengers vs. Infinity #1 (January 2016) was a one-shot that included four tales: "Anger Mismanagement," "Doom Everlasting," "Bossman Smash" and "Might of the Living Dead." All were written by Joe Carmagana and inked by Scott Hanna; Wellington Alves pencilled "Anger Mismanagement" and Ron Lim did the other three.

Its original cover was done by Kalman Andrasofzky and the variant edition cover was by Ron Lim. The variant had a problem: The print edition was missing the last page of the last story, "Might of the Living Dead." Readers of the digital edition got the entire tale, but stores were asked to pull the first edition and wait for corrected reprints to be shipped.


DC honored its roots with the Millennium Edition series in 2000 and 2001. Each of the 62 comics was a reprint of a key title in the company's history: first issues, debuts of major characters, first issues of major storylines or miniseries, and character relaunches or redesigns. As the modern DC has absorbed titles and characters from other publishers over the years, not all books were original to the company.

One was Millennium Edition: Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD #1 (February 2000). MAD was the flagship title of EC Comics, but the indicia in the original Millennium reprint credited its trademarks and publication to DC. The second edition corrected that information with proper credit to EC.

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