Did Marvel Use Word Balloons to Cover Up Elektra In an Issue to Avoid Being Risque?


In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, we look at whether Marvel used word balloons to cover up an issue of Elektra that was deemed to be too risque in retrospect.

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and twenty-first installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first part of this installment.

NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I’ll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!

Marvel moved word balloons around to make a risque issue of Elektra more acceptable


I’ve been doing these legends for so long that occasionally, I lose track as to whether I’ve covered something before, but typically, I can find out pretty easily and if I can’t, then that usually means that I did not do a legend on the topic. Sometimes, though, I just can’t find the original but I know it exists and those are the frustrating ones. For instance, I could have sworn that I covered the main aspect of this legend before, but I can’t find it, so either I put it into my first book and never did it online or I just never did it period (I’ve mentioned it before in a list and possibly that’s my confusion?). It’s possible that I never did it period, as you’d be surprised by some of the stories circa 2003-2005 that I didn’t cover because they seemed “too new” at the time that I started doing Comic Book Legends Revealed and so those stories are, you know, almost 20 years old now! But whatever, whether I covered the initial story or not, this is a separate side legend that I didn’t even know about until recently, so if I did the original, it works as a side story and if I never did the original, then this would be, by default, the original version of the story. So it works either way.

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In the early 2000s, Marvel started doing this thing called “First Looks” (DC would do it, as well), where they would do small print runs of comics and send them to retailers a week before the books were released so that retailers would know whether they wanted to get reorders and/or to allow the retailers to read the comic book and be able to promote the comic book when it came out the next week. A side effect of this “First Look” program was that it would also give publishers a head’s up about controversies in the comics, like the time that a Wolverine issue accidentally used a Jewish slur in the story (I must have done a legend on that, too, but I can’t find it, either. Weird. Here‘s a more in-depth later article I did on it, though) and some other incidents like that.

So that was what happened with Elektra #3 in 2001. The book was a Marvel Knights book by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Chuck Austen that carried a “Mature/Violent Content” warning on the cover…

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As a result of its explicit warning (and Marvel’s general envelope-pushing attitude of the era. Remember, this is the same time period where Marvel started doing MAX comic books and Bendis’ MAX work, Alias, had its first issue literally open with a sex scene) Austen pushed the issue slightly with the artwork, but the funny thing is that the end result was extremely tame. However, when the First Looks came out, people were concerned, Marvel asked retailers to scrap them and the company put out a new edition of the issue.

In Wizard #124, the magazine played up the original content of the issue a bit and also then said that the offending parts of the original comic book would be obscured by word balloons (this WAS a Brian Michael Bendis comic book after all, so word balloons were naturally plentiful in the comic book).

In reality, though, that was not the case. The original content was both not all that risque and the solutions did not involve word balloons. In actuality, it was the ORIGINAL comic book that used word balloons to cover stuff up, as seen in this panel from the original version of the issue…

As you can see in the edited version of the issue (I guess nominally the second printing of the comic, right?), they simply added underwear for Elektra to scenes, even the ones where the word balloons were covering up anything that could be considered too much…

If you didn’t know what the original looked like, and all you knew was that Marvel was just trying to cover up something risque, then you might think that the word balloons were used to cover up something REALLY risque.

But no, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott (the letterers of the issue) did not have to add any extra word balloons, Marvel just had someone add underwear in scenes that were already not showing anything untoward. One of the more amusing bits was here from the original, where Elektra outright IS wearing clothes when she isn’t drenched in shadows…

Look at how ridiculous the “fixed” version of these panels is, she’s totally drenched in shadows, but they make sure to add a few very visible straps mixed into the shadows to, like, confirm that if you COULD see anything, it would be fully clothed. It’s the silliest thing…

But yeah, as you can see, all of the edits were done to the existing artwork and no other changes were made. So no word balloons were harmed in this process.

In the latest TV Legends Revealed – Did Star Trek almost accidentally fall into the public domain in the 1970s?

Check back soon for part 3 of this installment’s legends!

Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com

KEEP READING: The Bizarre Behind-The-Scenes Origin of Human Torch Meeting Spider-Man’s Clone

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