Captain America 20/20

By | Sunday, August 05, 2012 1 comment
What's presented below is something akin to Mark Waid’s vision for what Captain America #14 (1999) should have been. I picked up my copy the day it was released. Scanning through it, I was impressed with Andy Kubert’s visuals and Chris Sotomayer’s colors. I read the book when I got home. Once I finished, I decided not to read anything further that night because there was no way anything could be done half as well as that issue was.

Strangely, it was only days later that I learned that Waid had not written it. (I consider it very strange given how much time I spent surfing the internet, even back then.) Waid released the following statement about the issue:

Despite what the error of having my name on the cover might imply, the contents of Captain America #14 aren't my work. The majority of the image descriptions and many of the early captions are my writing, but weeks after my story received approval from Marvel's editor-in-chief, and after the book was subsequently lettered, colored, read and approved by several editors, separated, and made ready to print, that same EIC decided, as within his rights yet despite previous approvals, to have the story completely altered and substantially rewritten, dropping entire sequences and pages and assigning several other pages to staffers to redialogue from scratch. As a result, what was printed isn't even close to the story I set out to tell, nor was I asked for input in any of the alterations made.

It is absolutely within Marvel's editorial right to make any and all changes to Work For Hire as they see fit, and I in NO WAY challenge that right. They buy it, it's theirs to do with as they wish, with or without my input. It's upsetting and warrants the removal of my name only when Marvel's editors renege on prior approvals without warning and do so while delivering to me a lecture (as if I'd done Marvel an injustice by writing an APPROVED STORY) instead of even the vaguest hint of an apology or regret. To leave my name on a story no longer mine cheats the readers and cheats me, hence my insistence at distancing myself from the final printed version.

I considered that he was being a little too arrogant but, not having seen his original script, I opted to withhold my judgement. I still thought it was a wonderful issue.

Then I happened across an interview David Medinnus had with him, in which Waid provided his original script. I quickly printed off a copy, pulled out #14 and read Waid’s dialogue against Kubert’s art.


For as well-done as the printed version was, Waid’s version blew it out of the water. It was one of those issues -- had it been printed -- that really pushed the envelope of what superhero comic books can be. “Every Cap fan should see this!” I thought. I decided to make it my next project: Captain America 20/20.

As Waid’s quote indicates, the entire issue was ready for publication as he intended. However, two and a half pages of art were removed entirely with the re-write. At the time, I tried contacting both Mark Waid and Todd Klein for copies of the original art to use in recreating the issue, but I didn't hear back from either of them. I therefore tried to, as faithfully as I could, generate images in accordance with Waid’s script, but I can't say how closely they resemble Kubert’s original art.

For some reason, I only saved a PDF of what I completed and none of the source files, and, at over ten years on, there's definitely some room for improvement. I overdid the file compression, and I'm sure I could've done some better Photoshop work on several pages. Most notably, I, for some reason, choose to letter everything in Comic Sans! (The only defense I can offer is that it was 1999 and there were scant few fonts available for free that looked remotely like hand lettering.) Maybe one day, I'll go back and try to re-work the whole piece again, but that's not going to happen any time soon.

With all that said, here's my 1999 attempt to restore Waid's story...
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Matt K said...

It's been some years since I read Waid's original script, but I know I've always been kind of ambivalent about the notion that the story was ruined. I can see the arguments against the specific changes, but as I remember them I was left with the sense that, in the big picture, Waid's story was still there in either version.

And indeed, that quote suggests that the reaction from Waid was really at least as much about how the affair was handled by Marvel as about the specific edits they imposed; "it's not my story" seems in this case to mean "I feel I have been denied any right to a say in the content" rather than "what I wrote is not recognizable in the final version."

Meanwhile, seeing all the pages together like this, I do notice a visual parallel between page 13 and 16 which I don't think I had ever consciously observed before. Nice.