Monday, January 5, 2009

Hidden Words in Aquaman?

Here's an interesting page. Click and have a look at this scene from Adventure Comics #441. Can you guess what's unusual about it?
There's probably not much chance that you guessed, unless you've recently read the published comic. Here's the story:
Back when I was first assembling the complete Jim Aparo Checklist in the early 90's, I forwarded a copy to my pal Chris Khalaf for corrections and additions. One of his corrections was: "Aparo didn't letter Adventure 441. Ben Oda did." I took another look at the comic, and sure enough, Chris was right. That wasn't Aparo lettering. (At the time, I didn't have the skill to recognize Oda, but after this incident, it was suddenly simple to spot Oda).
But why? In this era, Aparo always did his own lettering, along with the inking! And these were Aparo's inks...I couldn't imagine what situation would have arisen to require his pencilling the pages, then sending them in for lettering, then getting them back for inking! (And I didn't know it at the time, but I later learned that his usual technique was to do the lettering first!) It was a mystery.
The mystery was solved when I moved to Nashville for a year in 1992. At one of the local comics shops, I found a stack of original art that included one Aparo page: the one shown--sort of--above. The answer was simple: Ben Oda's lettering was pasted over all of Jim's original balloons and captions. Aparo had lettered, pencilled, and inked the entire job, but after his part was done, editor Joe Orlando had, for some unknown reason, rejected Paul Levitz's script, and had David Michelinie rewrite the entire comic. Oda then lettered the new script and pasted it over Aparo's work.
Look close through the issue as published and you'll see several traces of evidence, such as orphaned word balloon "tails" and obvious touch-up with white paint and ink.
The version linked to above is what I found when I stripped Oda's paste-ups off of the page. It's the original Levitz script, in Aparo's lettering, unseen for decades!

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