L: Journey Into Unknown Worlds #17 (April 1953), pencils and inks by Bill Everett
R: Chamber of Chills #9 (September 1974), pencils by Larry Lieber(?), inks by Frank Giacoia (Click picture to chill-chamber-size)
"There's no way Aquaman would behave like that! What a mistake!" you and I and the guy down at your Ye Olde Locale Comice Booke Shoppe have declared at one point or another, unless, of course, like most people, you've never even read Aquaman. ("He can talk to fish, right?") But to contradict the immortal words of Colin Hay, that isn't a mistake...it's what we in the comics fandom field call characterization. In the style of a good-old fashioned Smallville Elementary spelling bee (which Lex always won), I shall now use that word in a sentence: "Hank Pym is a wife-beating psychopath. That's not a mistake, that's characterization." In short, comics are perfect, flawless, and infallible, much like the Pope, who is, after all, a canonical character of the Marvel Universe.
Panel from What If? v1 #28 (August 1981), script by Michael Fleisher, pencils and inks by Tom Sutton, colors by Carl Gafford, letters by Vic Carey
Panels from Legion of Monsters v2 #2 (January 2012), script by Dennis Hopeless, pencils and inks by Juan Doe, colors by Wil Quintana, letters by Dave Lanphear
Hey, that vampire stole Deadman's costume! But even though you shouldn't spit in the wind, tug on Superman's cape, or pull the leotard off the dead Boston Brand, that's not the mistake. Read the final panel carefully: what in context should read "battery part" instead says...
With all due respect, Mister Dave Lanphear...tee hee!
Of course, as the popular bumper sticker inspired by Forrest Gump says: "Typos happen." But they usually don't happen in a comic book created to help kids read:
Panel from Spidey Super Stories #40 (May 1979), script by Michael Siporin, pencils by Win Mortimer, inks by Mike Esposito
Or, maybe this spelling is correct and this is actually the French Spider-Man: L'Homme Étonnant D'Arachnide! Il fait tout ce qu'une araignée ne! Anyway, good job at not being credited, anonymous letterer of Spidey Super Stories #40...we salute you!
Sometimes the misteakmisstake error can be chalked up to what Cool Hand Luke called, in between mouthfuls of hard-boiled eggs, "a failure to communicate." In an industry with many creators (and yet so few credited as such), it might be a misunderstanding or oversight between the scripter and the penciller or the colorist, like this example where dialogue says it's two-thirty and yet the clock reads...well, I really can't tell what time it's supposed to be, with those identically-sized clock hands in impossible places.
Panels from Green Lantern v3 #80 (November 1996), script by Ron Marz, pencils by J.H. Williams, inks by Mick Gray, colors by Pamela Rambo, letters by Chris Eliopoulos
It's not 1:12 (what would be the hour hand is too far past the one), and it's not 2:08 (the "hour" hand is past the two). Gosh, this one's a tough call, because I like the work of both Ron Marz and J.H. Williams and I don't wanna place blame at anybody's feet. I could do what usually is done in comics (blame the editor), but instead I'm going to attempt an in-universe explanation to earn the DC version of a No-Prize (a Bob Rozakis Answer Man Award?) Here we go: The correct explanation is that Kyle Rayner can't tell time.
And from what I can tell in this comic, Kyle Rayner can't tell colors either. Kinda a handicap when you're fighting guys with different colored rings, I would think. Maybe that's why they each have subtlely distinct logos, for Green Lanterns who are chroma-impaired. Say, how do you think G'nort and Dex-Starr get around those limitations?
Panels from JLA Classified #14 (January 2006), script by Warren Ellis, pencils and inks by Butch Guice, colors by David Baron, letters by Phil Balsman
Here's another case of the editor not noticing a contradiction between the script and the art, from James Robinson's Justice League of America. Not pointing any hooves coughcoughrexoglecougheddieberganzacoughsneeze. But what's that? It's from the second-to-last ish of Justice League of America before the Flashpoint reboot into the New 52? Justice League of America volume two, 2006 series? The issue before they just all give up and disband the Justice League? (Which seems to be the way they end JLA series these days anymore.) That one?
Oh, 'nuff said then!
Panels from Justice League of America #59 (September 2011), script by James Robinson, pencils by Daniel Sampere, inks by Wayne Faucher, colors by Andrew Dalhouse, letters by Rob Leigh
Oh, well, I guess as long as Eclipso has ended all life in the universe and taken up his throne of skulls just like the Darkseid/Thanos wanna-be he is, then it's no wonder the JLA busted up. "Dudes...we're dead. We can rest now." "That's treasonous talk, mister!"
Sure, Eclipso destroyed everything (hopefully including the 1992 Eclipso: The Darkness Within annuals). No lights. No planes. No motorcars. Not even any stars...
Yup, that's right. There ain't a single star in the sky. There's millions of 'em.
You can hardly blame Eclipso...he's too busy chillin' in his big chair, watching his widescreen TV made of skulls, so he hasn't noticed. Shame that he destroyed all the universe's nachos, though.
Sometimes a blooper in a comic book is attributable to nothing more than good-old fashioned Murphy's Law-abiding technology. Here's a case where an entire set of pages (a signature within the comic) got the wrong colors printed. First, on a correct page: here's the way '70s Marvel hero stuntman is supposed to look, in a red and white costume...
Panels from The Human Fly #19 (March 1979), script by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Lee Elias, inks by Ricardo Villamonte, colors by Elaine Heinl, letters by Diana Albers
And here's the way he shows up on the error pages...in a green costume. Wow, he's not only a great stuntman, he's a quick-change artist as well!
Red dots turn into blue and yellow; red and white into blue and white...look, I don't understand it aside from the color register was is printed. Now's a good time to get out that coloring chart from Marvel Age in the 80s and follow along with its four-color glory! Me, I like to pretend that halfway through the comic book the Human Fly got changed into a Kree and was transported to do battle on a Kree cowboy outpost. And then Kree Farrah Fawcett types up a report for Kree Charlie! Lookit those pages fly! There must be less gravity on the Hala-Deadwood planet.
She's also typing that it's the end of the series, which, you gotta admit, is a great ending for a Marvel comic series in the 1970s. "I'm telling you, Shooter, it'll be great! Everybody turns into a Kree soldier at the end of the final ish! The kids'll love it!" "Whatever. You wanna write this new Micronauts thing, Bill?" Of course, another mistake is that the letters page is telling us about the next issue. Also, for some reason, the letter page is covered with flies. It was a risky but bold move of Marvel to print all their comics in 1979 on past-expiration-date lunch meat, huh?
Here's one last one...see if you can help me figure this one out. Madame Hydra tells Whirlwind he's late. The appointment was at eight o'clock. Whirlwind arrived at 7:45. So he's not late. In fact, he thinks he's 45 instead of 15 minutes early because he thought the appointment was at 8:30.
WHAT THE SAM SCRATCH IS THE POINT OF THIS SCENE?!?!?
Panels from Iron Man v.2 #3 (January 1997), script and co-plot by Scott Lobdell; co-plot by Jim Lee; pencils by Whilce Portacio; inks by Scott Williams, JD, Tom McWeeney, and Trevor Scott; colors by Joe Chiodo, Martin Jimenez, and Wildstorm FX; letters by Richard Starkings, Comicraft, Dave Lanphear, and Albert Deschesne
What's the point? Perhaps the point is don't put seventy-three people working on one comic book. Perhaps the point is Scott Lobdell. Maybe the point is Heroes Reborn. But me, I'm gonna go for the easy guess and tell you that the point is...it was the nineties.
That about wraps it up for our little tiptoe through the lutips of weird and wacky bloopers and blunders in comic books from Marvel and DC, although there's always more. (I've got a whole folder full of 'em.) And at least, as I said at the beginning, you can count on a few universal constant truths that are always part of a character. For example, Aquaman talks to fish; we all know it, and that's that.
Panel from Aquaman v.7 #1 (November 2011), script by Geoff Johns, pencils by Ivan Reis, inks by Joe Prado, colors by Rod Reis, letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Panels from Infinite Crisis #2 (January 2006),
script by Geoff Johns;
pencils by Phil Jimenez;
inks by Mario Alquiza, Andy Lanning, Norm Rapmund, and Lary Stucker;
colors by Jeremy Cox and Guy Major;
letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Consider (if you will) all the things that Star Wars gave us and made a permanent part of pop culture. Neurotic robots, lightsaber battles, the idea that tanks could be built with four legs, and midicholrians. Well, they can't all be winners. But for every minor innovation like blue milk (and I can't understand why Lucas hasn't licensed that to be sold in stores already), there's a genre-busting breakthrough like thisreally really fast spaceships.
In era-BANH (Before A New Hope), we saw spaceships as oversized and ponderously slow: the Pan Am Space Clipper and the Aries 1B Earth-Moon shuttle of 2001, the Dark Star (from the movie of the same name, of course), the Valley Forge from Silent Running, the United Planets Cruiser C57-D of Forbidden Planet. Even Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon, for all its here's ship-in-your-eye technology, slowly floats back down to earth after it falls off a moon cliff just in time to escape the threatening moon men. Star Wars cranked up the speed, slammed Han Solo's pedal to the metal and showed us just how mind-breakingly cool it was to zip into hyperspace. Remember how awesome that effect was the first time you saw it?
But now, everybody does it. Including Star Trek.
But: we didn't see this type of speed and maneuverability in the original Star Trek series. Until the debut of 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture That Goes On and On and On and On and On and On..., we didn't see the effects of the Enterprise going into hyperspace. It was even later that we saw Trek's ships behave with the speed and manueverability of Star Wars, in the battle scenes against the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact and versus the Dominion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Aside from a few sped-up fly-bys and the opening credits, the original Enterprise, even at the occasional impossible speed (warp 14.1 in ""That Which Survives," warp 36 in the animated series's "The Counter-Clock Incident"), moved gracefully but slowly across your color TV screen.
But there was one place in the sixties that the U.S.S. Enterprise pulled off not only amazing speed but also extremely tight and elaborate spiral patterns: in the Gold Key Star Trek #6.
Yes, yes, I know that cover photo comes from "Amok Time," and this story has nothing to do with that. Hold on...let me adjust this a little...
There, that's better.
Stardate: 1969! Space hooligans have put cherry bombs in the warp engines of the Enterprise! Oh, there'll be trouble tonight when Scotty catches up with them!
Panels from Star Trek #6 (December 1969), script by Dick Wood, pencils and inks by Alberto Giolitti
Actually, you can't blame Italian artist Alberto Giolitti for the rocket-blasting engines of his comic book Enterprise: he was working from stills and production art like this cover art by James Bama (Doc Savage) used by Bantam for the first of its Trek novelizations by James Blish:
It's famously said that Giolitti never saw a single episode of Star Trek, even while working on the franchise. That's okay, neither did Fred Freiberger. (Zing!)
So: Stardate Danger! The Enterprise has detected two planetoids on a collision course. Upon beaming down, Kirk and his away team landing party discover each world is populated with an underground-dwelling civilization. Well, the heck with the Prime Directive, then! The Enterprise must save these inconveniently-located heavy metal planets! (That's "heavy metal" as in "composed of heavy metal," not populated by members of the bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Mötorhead...as awesome as that would be.
Kirk immediately snaps into action and orders DEEP GALAXY PENETRATION! Well, of course he does.
And this is where Sulu's dream comes true. The Enterprisewarps blasts into high speed, moving so swiftly that it almost immediately proves Einstein's theory of relativity by duplicating itself in the next panel. That's two, two, two paychecks for Bill Shatner!
In fact, Sulu's racing the ol' 1701 so speedily that her plating shreds off. Either that, or Scotty used transparent aluminum to repair the Enterprise after the last issue. (He knows the guy who invented it.) Also, he left the shuttlecraft doors open. But to heck with it, there's metal planets to save!
Scotty tosses out an assortment of giant tribbles while Sulu does donuts around the Giant Space Egg of the Great Bird of the Galaxy! I think.
If that wasn't enough showing off his high-speed piloting skills, Sulu wraps the Enterprise around a highly magnetic asteroid in a double spiral pattern, causing the ship to audibly go "swooosh bzzzzzz!" and Chekov to throw up and then claim that womiting is a Russian inwention.
Spock makes a mental note to remind his Captain that the Enterprise is equipped with "tractor beams" and "phasers," not "magnetic mesh" and "cannons." Spock had to spend a lot of time making corrections, and apologies, for Jim Kirk.
Sulu fires up the secondary hull rockets (probably immediately killing everyone in engineering, but hey, you cannot put a price in human lives on exciting space action like this! Towing the big magnetic asteroid behind them has a few negative effects: Sulu spends so much time looking in the rear-view mirror that he doesn't notice he's piloting the Enterprise directly into a meteor storm, and everybody's credit cards get blanked.
Look carefully at this next panel and notice it looks like the meteors have little faces with big black eyes and big smiley mouths. Once you've seen this, you can't unsee it. They're dive-bombing the Enterprise and going wheeeeeeeeee like that Geico pig all the way down!
Luckily, the magnetic personality of the asteroid persuades the kamikaze meteors to move in a different direction...look, I don't understand it any more than you do. About this time in the TV series there would be a commercial, wouldn't there? For Kirk, it's time for a piping hot delicious barrel of coffee! If she was the one to carry that onto the bridge, no wonder Janice Rand quit.
Just to show off how smart he is, Spock immediately breaks out the New York Times crossword puzzle (the Sunday one, at that) and solves it while he's computing the time they have left to complete the maneuver and/or for the dramatic music to finish up. Unusually, he's giving the calculation in "galaxy minutes," which are like regular minutes, except with more space in between them. Also, he has filled in the answer to 17-Across, "Cancelled 1960s TV series (8 letters)," as "Batmannn."
Ah ha! Now we seen the brilliant of Spock's scheme. Towing the magnetic asteroid in between the two planets will push them apart like a greased pig on the set of Hee Haw! This scientific principle is supported by the work of Newton, Galileo, and, as shown in her revered scientific treatise "Opposites Attract," Professor Paula Abdul.
Hooray! It worked! Hopefully, with a big loud BOING sound effect. Spock looks out the window and theorizes that the two planets have nothing to worry about aside from the globe-wide earthquakes, floods, fire, death, devastation, and horror. But we'll leave that for the Federation to clean up...it's time to warp off to our next adventure on The Planet of the Space Vixens! (Shatner had this specifically written into his contract.)
Special Bonus Panels!: Witness Kirk, Spock, and the blonde Scotty trapped on the planet of WHAM-O's Super-Elastic Bubble Plastic!
And here's Blonde Scotty reacting to something surprising (I dunno, maybe a Horta or a Mugato or a Salt Vampire or a Narwhal) with a traditional Scots expression of surprise!
In the same spirit of "fixing" the cover of Star Trek #6, I took it as my Prime Directive to meddle in the affairs of a less-advanced comic book and make it better by substituting more familiar Star Trek phrases for "Be-Bejabbers" (which I think is the name of a giant space slug in that Star Wars movie I was talking about earlier. There's the familiar:
...or maybe I'll try a phrase that didn't seem at home in the green-tinted mouth of Spock, what with his Vulcan uvula and all:
Let's try it with an infamous line from a movie that didn't make much sense anyway:
I'm really not certain what Scotty's pointing at in the first place. What that heck is that thing, anyway?
Make your own and post 'em for everybody to enjoy, won't you?