ALL-STAR BATMAN’s bad language

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As revealed in a few comments here and around the web, and confirmed by several insiders, the reason for yesterday’s ALL-STAR BATMAN #10 recall was language. Writer Frank Miller had requested all the issue’s profanity be lettered in,, and then covered with a black bar. However, although it looks fine in the proof stage, when it was printed, the black bars were transparent enough to read the offensive language. Funnybook Babylon has the scans:

dsc 0071 ALL STAR BATMANs bad language

In an email, Nat Gertler speculated on the production error:

“Just having looked at scans over the Internet, it looks to me like the lettering is printed using just black ink, while the bars were put on a different layer using “rich black”, which is a mixture of all four color inks. “Rich black” makes a darker, more vibrant black. On the computer screen, it would all just look black, but the difference will be visible on the printed page.”


Those who suggested the “goddam Batman” had done this or that were far closer than they knew to the truth.

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Comments

  1. Mark Coale says:

    I guess #%!&#@! isn’t good enough for Frank.

  2. I have really nice scans. Trying to get LITG to update for an hour… 8-(

  3. Brian Davison says:

    I’m not sure who is dumber here, Frank Miller or the editor that approved Frank’s idea. If the word is going to be blacked out by a bar anyway, what is the fucking….errr, f#@%ing point of placing the actual word underneath?

    I’m sure DC just loved the idea of spending the time and money to recall all these books. Way to go, Frank.

  4. It’s a production issue, I’d think.

    Heads won’t roll!

  5. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> If the word is going to be blacked out by a bar anyway, what is the fucking….errr, f#@%ing point of placing the actual word underneath?>>

    Makes the black bars the right length, for one thing.

    kdb

  6. Looks like DC’s new intention to “get darker” wasn’t dark enough. ;-)

  7. Mark Coale says:

    @ Kurt

    Couldn’t you just do that with similarly-spelled words, just not the “real” ones?

    To quote Ricky Gervais, “he’s a FULKING CUMP.”

  8. >> If the word is going to be blacked out by a bar anyway, what is the fucking….errr, f#@%ing point of placing the actual word underneath?>>

    In addition to what Kurt notes, it also provides accurate source material for translation for foreign editions, where the words might not be blacked out.

  9. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> Couldn’t you just do that with similarly-spelled words, just not the “real” ones? >>

    You’d have to be careful with it, in order to get the right word lengths and to make sure those little ascendors and descendors that stick out of the black bars a little were the right shape. In your example, for instance, L isn’t as wide a letter as C, and if a bit of it sticks out, it’s the wrong shape.

    But yes, that could work. It’s not the obvious way to go, though, unless you’re already aware that the black bars won’t actually opaque the parts of the word they cover.

    If you don’t know that, you won’t know that spelling the words correctly is a problem in the first place.

    And if you do know it, it’s much, much easier to have whoever does the bars do them in flat black rather than rich black.

    So you have to be aware of the problem, but if you are, there are easier fixes.

    Goldang farging iceholes. Malefacting buzzards!

    kdb

  10. Well, this is certainly a blessing for Funnybookbabylon. Good for them on the scoop.

  11. Richard Pachter says:

    Wasn’t Rich Black one of Funky Flashman’s lackeys?

    Kurt would know if anyone would.

    Come on Kurt, what issue?

  12. I don’t know if that could really be the issue here since a black made of CMYK would actually be darker than just using K (black)- if anything maybe the opposite is true and the text was set to “rich black” (we call it “registration” at my shop since that’s what Quark XPress calls it in the color menu) while the bars were printed in only black. One could probably tell since registration has to be absolutely perfect when using all four colors and some of the pages you would see some stray colors sneaking over the edges of those black boxes (whichever plate wasn’t perfectly registered).

    Depending on the program used, the issue could be that the black bars were printed with the “overprint” setting incorrect which would allow the text underneath to sneak through. I think that’s the more likely explanation just judging from viewing the scan here. Having made the mistake once myself, that’s what it looks like to me.

  13. “I don’t know if that could really be the issue here since a black made of CMYK would actually be darker than just using K (black)”

    But that’s what it looks like to me — the text in the scans appears lighter than the bars. That’s why I’m saying that text appears to be on a higher layer in the layout program, with the setting to knock out (rather than just overprint) whatever is below it.

  14. brett says:

    So now that everyone and their mother has access to these pages, why DC will even bother to try and pulp the issue is going to be beyond everyone. Reprinting the entire run is going to be quite a costly for their manufacturing costs.

    Aw, what the heck.

    It’s only money.

  15. LOL I ssay just put the Vertigo label on it instead and it’ll be fine.

  16. Yes the pages are on the net now Brett but it’s perfectly understandable that DC have to recall the issue. The last thing anyone wants is some “concerned parent” (or similar reactionary) getting a retailer taken to court because her kid bought a Batman comic with the word c*nt in it.

    Incidentally, Miller’s All Star epic kicked up a fuss over here in the UK a few months ago when earlier chapters were reprinted in Titan’s ‘Batman Legends’ monthly. Some irate mother (and I use the term “mother” in its proper sense, not as a Miller profanity ;-)) phoned a radio talk show complaining how horrified she was that a children’s Batman comic featured The Joker date raping and killing a woman.

    It’s hard to argue in the comic’s defence as Batman IS still considered to be a children’s character by most people outside of our comics ghetto, and in the UK “Batman Legends” is sold on newsstands and in supermarkets, so reaches a potentially younger audience than the U.S. originals.

    Titan responded by putting an “over 12″ advisory on the covers of subsequent issues that featured Miller’s Batman. Which made “Batman Legends” seem a little schizophrenic considering it has free stickers cover mounted to entice younger readers. The wacky world of comics eh?

  17. Steve Taylor says:

    If it is the case that doing all of this in this way, possibly, provides accurate source material for translation for foreign editions, where the words might not be blacked out,…as well as, perhaps, the other reasons mentioned,… then, just exactly what is going on here? Is the audience in the U.S. so sensitive that we can’t deal with four letter words,…where as the dad-blamed foreigners get to have all the fun. If DC is so worried about the audiences reaction to all of this then why are they letting Fucking Frank Miller write the God Damned Batman to begin with? The “take” is so off the mark to begin with. I wonder what character Frank THINKS he’s writing.

  18. “Is the audience in the U.S. so sensitive that we can’t deal with four letter words”

    Of course they can deal with it. However, Batman, All-Star or otherwise, isn’t an adult comic though. Simple as that really.

    Also, it’s not a case of the audience’s sensitivities, – it’s the trouble that pressure groups and the like could kick up. Kids in the Fifties loved horror comics, – it was “well meaning” outsiders that closed them down.

  19. Seems to me like Miller is writing Miller’s Batman.

    He didn’t exactly reflect the mainstream view of the character in The Dark Knight Returns, either… but that version sold a ton, continues to sell well, and proved very influential in comics and beyond.

  20. I’m more offended by what they didn’t black out than what they did.

    “we cut her come on”
    “sweet piece in sweet slices…tasty sliced booty the little —-”

    DC should have blacked out the whole thing.

  21. brett says:

    This is All Star Batman and its up to issue 10.

    At this point, parents shouldn’t be buying the book for their children and retailers should know better than to be selling it to anyone under age.

    It’s that simple.

    Pulp away.

  22. Michael says:

    Two things.

    One, is there any way we can get black bar’s over the *rest* of Miller’s dialogue?

    Two, yippee ki-yay, melon farmer.

  23. Thomax Green says:

    Well at least it wasn’t Kevin Smith dialog otherwise you would have to black bar everything.

  24. I agree — why is the talk all CMYK-y and Ink Police instead of why is he insisting the words be lettered in the first place? This isn’t a judgment, just genuine curiosity. Is it an artistic decision? Or so we can guess the words more accurately? Are those good reasons? Or is it to remind us the series is still going on?

    And no we Yanks cannot handle four-letter words — when they are in a Batman and ROBIN comic with flagship creators. Doi.

  25. Melon farmer? I’d always heard Captain Falcon.

  26. Ben May says:

    Is Frank Miller purposefully trying to kill his comics career? When the Spirit turns out to be crap, he’s gonna have nothing to come back to.

  27. Rob (ShutUpRob) says:

    Must . . . resist . . . urge . . . to make lettering joke about . . . FLICKING CLINTS! Mainly because I’m not British and am therefore not witty enough to make it work.

    — Rob

    PS: Oh, lookee, we have another Elseworlds 80-Page Giant where a mysteriously large number of copies are probably going to end up on eBay in a couple of weeks.

  28. This book should be reprinted and clearly labelled “adult”. Then, Miller can go wild and take the black bars off all the swear words. It should just be sold in the adult section of the comic shop.

    The nastiness and swearing in this comic is no worse than that contained in many movies that can be rented from Blockbuster.

  29. Cyrion says:

    So now we have the goddamn Batmand the fucking Batgirl? Uh… okay.

  30. AndyD says:

    So … sentences like “move along, Spermbank” or “I am the goddam Batman” are okay in a children´s comic?

    Who in his right mind sees All Star Batman as a kids comic in the first place? This is absolutly ridiculous.

  31. What uninitiated parent, walking in off the street, WOULDN’T assume All Star Batman was a kids’ comic? It’s a Batman comic book. Dar.
    Eventually some bullshit like this will backfire on this industry.
    It’s not a matter of if. It’s when.

  32. Patrick Dean says:

    Hey look what I found buried on the web!

    All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #11

    Written by Frank Miller; Art and Cover by Jim Lee and Scott Williams; Variant wraparound cover by Miller

    The Goddam Batman faces off against the cock sucking Joker with the help of that Red and Yellow Bastard Robin! While the Fucking Batgirl battles a gang of heavily armed prostitutes as the Sonuvabitch Gordon solves some motherfucking crime and shit. This fucking issue is so goddam awesome it will make your dick explode into a million fucking pieces shit motherfucker damn piss hell arrrrghhjmnxz ,aeodidcdsdczz,mxx

    Batman | 32pg., 8 of them goddam splash pages | Fucking Color | $2.99 US

    On Sale September 8, 2010

  33. “The nastiness and swearing in this comic is no worse than that contained in many movies that can be rented from Blockbuster.”

    Yeah, but those movies are rated R and, again, not Batman movies.

  34. Torsten Adair says:

    You can’t label a Frank Miller comic unless you ask him nicely. Translation would most likely be accessed by a text file. If a digital file is sent overseas, I would expect the text to be on a layer separate from the art. Why weren’t the bars placed on the original lettering, that is, made part of the lettering like an overstrike? Does DC intend to later reprint the dialogue uncensored? (Is this the first ASB to use these? Can someone compare the comics to the hardcover collection?)
    Like comedy, I feel that profanity is a cheap way to make a point. A talented writer can write a badass character, and make them more menacing by avoiding nasty language. Batman is so calculating and cool that he shouldn’t swear, and barely even speak.

  35. Seems to me that, in the future, the smart thing to do if they want the black bars to be the right length, would be to change the offensive words to white, so there’s no chance of them showing up at all beneath whatever color the bars are.

  36. Cyrion says:

    This so reminds me of that scene in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, when Hugh Grant, annoyed at himself in the church, goes “bugger bugger bugger”, and the priest comes in and says *is there anything I can help you with, my son?*

    But yeah, what Adair said. Propping up a non-existing story with gutter speak is the mark of a 13-year old who thinks this is how grown-ups talk. Strangely enough, 1986 Frank Miller didn’t need that at all. But 2008 Frank Miller has obviously gone off the deep end.

    *snark* It happens when you do coke with Ben Silverman and the rest of the Hollywood crowd *snark*

  37. “Seems to me that, in the future, the smart thing to do if they want the black bars to be the right length, would be to change the offensive words to white, so there’s no chance of them showing up at all beneath whatever color the bars are.”

    And then they accidentally go and put the lettering layer on top of the bar layer, knock out the black there, and the curses are clearly readable in reverse. (And it looks like they also wanted the edges of the letters visible, and white wouldn’t have that effect.)

    The right way of doing it is to do whatever method you’re doing correctly.

  38. RichYan33 says:

    Note. I asked a local comic dealer if he was going to trash them and his response was “hell no”. DC makes the dealers by 900 issues of some piece of crap they publish just to get one alternate cover and now they want favors from the dealers??? Don’t see it happening.

    Mine will be on eBay tomorrow.

  39. Cheese and rice almighty! it’s astonishing what they put in comics these days!

  40. “The right way of doing it is to do whatever method you’re doing correctly.”

    Whatever. I wasn’t aware of them wanting the aesthetics of the letter edges. I guess this is why I don’t buy ASBAR – or really much else in the way of mainstream superhero books these days.

  41. Steve Taylor says:

    “Of course they can deal with it. However, Batman, All-Star or otherwise, isn’t an adult comic though. Simple as that really.”

    That’s my point! Since when ISN’T All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder NOT an all ages book? It wasn’t solicited as an “adult” book and there was nothing to indicate that it was intended to be anything BUT an all ages book, until the “God-damned Batman” stuff started popping up. Well,…that and the guy wearing the cowl’s over all shitty attitude. This version of the character SUCKS!!! This book isn’t selling because of Frank Miller,…it’s selling because of Jim Lee. Miller owes the Batman audience an apology and as far as I’m concerned you can scrap the whole story and just publish the artwork with empty word balloons so that we can all make up our own crap. Why should Miller be the only one who works out his neurosis here?

    Also, it’s not a case of the audience’s sensitivities, – it’s the trouble that pressure groups and the like could kick up. Kids in the Fifties loved horror comics, – it was “well meaning” outsiders that closed them down.

  42. Steve Taylor says:

    I inadvertently left part of the excerpt from Mr. Stringer’s quote, that I used as a reference for my scathing comments above,…neglecting to delete them before posting and I apologize for that.

  43. That’s ok Mr.Taylor. Easily done.

    Funnily enough, here in the UK, Titan have been referring to All-Star Batman as a parody when they reprint it in Batman Legends. That’s one way of looking at it I suppose.

  44. Bryan says:

    “But yeah, what Adair said. Propping up a non-existing story with gutter speak is the mark of a 13-year old who thinks this is how grown-ups talk. Strangely enough, 1986 Frank Miller didn’t need that at all. But 2008 Frank Miller has obviously gone off the deep end.”

    My 10-year-old self remembers rushing home with Dark Knight issue 3 and reading the commissioner yelling over her walkie-talkie for a helicopter to “Come in low and blow this shit away”. Is this not in the subsequent trade reprints?

  45. “This book isn’t selling because of Frank Miller,…it’s selling because of Jim Lee.”

    With all respect to the talented Mr. Lee, I’m buying it because of Miller.

  46. Steve Taylor says:

    Really!?
    Maybe you could enlighten me as to why.

  47. Why not just Python it?

    Silly bunts.

  48. It amuses me. Whatever else anyone has to say about it, it ain’t boring.

    I think some people are misunderstanding the work, possibly due in part to the art style. They act like it’s an insult to say it’s a parody or a comedy…. as if this was Miller trying to write Year One again and failing. No, this is the Miller of Hard Boiled, of RoboCop, and yes, of the Dark Knight volumes. This is satire via excess and extremeness.

    If that’s not what you’re looking for, there is no shortage of other Batman books to read.

  49. Steve Taylor says:

    Then I was sold a bill of goods. Because I wasn’t interested in a parody and no one mentioned that it was supposed to be a satire.
    Personally, I don’t find it funny.
    Let me look back at past issues and see if I get that.
    Thanks.

  50. Alan Coil says:

    The All Star line was created as a place where hot creators could tell the out-of-continuity stories they wanted to tell. At the time, everybody thought this was a superb idea.

    Readers got what they asked for, they just didn’t realize what they were asking for.

  51. It was a book that emphasized Robin, The Boy Wonder in the title, which certainly suggested to me that either it was going to be a very earnest kiddie book, or was going to have a rip at it. And given that it was by the author of the Dark Knight Strikes Again, I certainly knew which one of those I expected. But even in that context, it may not be to your taste.

    There certainly seem to be people who bought issue after issue of a book they didn’t like. I’m really not clear why they bought it if they disliked it so much. Dislike the first issue, sure, blame the writer. Dislike the first nine issues, I think you only have yourself to blame…

  52. Steve Taylor Says:
    09/10/08 at 9:13 pm

    “Then I was sold a bill of goods. Because I wasn’t interested in a parody and no one mentioned that it was supposed to be a satire.
    Personally, I don’t find it funny.”

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. As I said, it’s *Titan* who labeled it a parody. In the UK Titan publish Batman Legends monthly which reprints All-Star Batman along with the other Batman comics in a 76 page comic. DC did not, to my knowledge, call it a parody.

    This is solely Titan’s take on it to explain to their readers why everyone in All-Star Batman is acting like a jerk I guess.

    # AndyD Says:
    09/10/08 at 8:01 am

    “Who in his right mind sees All Star Batman as a kids comic in the first place? This is absolutly ridiculous.”

    Who except comic book fans see All-Star Batman as an adult comic? All of my friends outside of comics consider Batman to be a children’s character. (Merchandise from Batman lunchboxes to Batman costumes for five year olds tends to reinforce that image.) It’s therefore not unrealistic to then expect those people to see All-Star Batman on the shelves and think it’s ok for kids. Particularly when the trade dress favours Robin over Batman.

  53. Steve Taylor says:

    Actually, Lew,…(May I call you Lew?) my moaning was more directed at Mr. Gertler’s (May I call him Mr. Gertler?) post than yours. Although I appreciate your effort. (And Mr. Gertler’s.)

  54. “All of my friends outside of comics consider Batman to be a children’s character.”

    And yet in North America, people have spent more than half a billion dollars this summer to see a version of the Batman that was marked as parents being strongly cautioned, as some material may be unsuitable for pre-teens.

  55. Jon z says:

    holy crap, is that _the_ kurt busiek posting on this blog!?

  56. Fair point about the adult tone of the movie, but people tend to see comics differently. Such as the example I mentioned of the concerned mother who phoned the talk show to complain about the comic.

  57. Steve Taylor says:

    Several generations worth of people have grown up with this character, such that, it appeals across the board. Young and old. So, it makes sense that the producers of the motion picture, would want it to appeal across the board, also.
    The deal being, that they hyped the nature of the film in the advertising.
    I didn’t get anything from the hype for All-Star Batman (…etc.) that it was anything other than yet another all ages thing.

  58. Steve Taylor says:

    Several generations worth of people have grown up with this character, such that, it appeals across the board. Young and old. So, it makes sense that the producers of the motion picture, would want it to appeal across the board, also.
    The deal being, that they hyped the nature of the film in the advertising for it. To Holy Heck, they hyped it.
    I didn’t get anything from the hype for All-Star Batman (…etc.) that it was anything other than yet another all ages thing. Therefore, when the gosh-darn Bats-man showed up, I, for one, was taken aback,…intrigued at first,…ultimately turned off. But that Jim Lee art and the coloration of the comic (…my apologies, I’ve forgotten who the colorist is,…) has made it almost impossible for me NOT to pick up this book. I only read the word balloons, at this point, to see how bad Frank Miller is going to piss me off this time.
    I suppose, knowing that it is Miller I should be more prepped for something a little more,…what? Better?

  59. No, it’s not _the_ Kurt Busiek posting here. It’s the one who writes comic books.

  60. Steve Taylor says:

    Oops. My thumb must have hit the submit button somewhere along the way.
    How embarrassing. DAMNABLE THUMB!!!!

  61. You know, having opposable thumbs does not mean that you actually have to publicly oppose them…

  62. Steve Taylor says:

    I wish I’d said that.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] You can see pictures of black censor bars inadequately covering up all sorts of dirty words over at their site. So what caused the bars to malfunction? Back to The Beat, where Heidi reprints an email from Nat Gertler saying it looks like the black bars were a different shade of black than the letters, and while it probably looked fine on a computer screen during the proofing stage, once it was printed, well … not so much. [...]

  2. [...] Efectivamente, ahora se ha sabido que el causante de esta retirada forzosa ha sido la impresión incorrecta del ejemplar. Algunos de los bocadillos de Batman contienen expresiones “ofensivas” que Frank Miller (el guionista) ha querido dejar, aunque tachadas en negro. Sin embargo, la impresión final del cómic se ha hecho con una tinta negra que transparenta las palabras censuradas. Así se explica en The Beat el uso indebido del “rich black” en este caso: Just having looked at scans over the Internet, it looks to me like the lettering is printed using just black ink, while the bars were put on a different layer using “rich black”, which is a mixture of all four color inks. “Rich black” makes a darker, more vibrant black. On the computer screen, it would all just look black, but the difference will be visible on the printed page. [...]

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