Retcon of the Jedi
June 5, 2008 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Does the continual revision of Star Wars have any artistic parallels in any medium?

In having an argument the other day over the merits of the new Indiana Jones film, I made a strong case for not being too hard on it. While it was certainly the weakest of the franchise, it did none of the things that the Star Wars prequels did to not just screw up the mythology, but retroactively screw up the films that preceded it.

As I made my case, I came to realize that I couldn't think of any filmmaker that had so extensively retconned his/her work as George Lucas. Chaplin did some rescoring, and director's cuts of other films abound, but nobody in cinematic history has so marred their own work and what made it special in the way that Lucas did.

Woody Allen's later comedies may have stank, but he didn't CGI Scarlet Johansson into the final shot of Annie Hall. The Richard Donner cut of Superman 2 was done because another director took over halfway through the film. The Donnie Darko director's cut, while altering the delivery of the film, added content that had already been shot and edited. The closest parallel I can think of is Blade Runner, but the original cut of Blade Runner was messy and financially unsuccessful, about as far removed from the reception of the Star Wars Trilogy as is imaginable.

No filmmaker has so extensively revised his or her popular, successful work in such ill-conceived, extensive ways. Lucas not only despiritualized the entire saga (Midichlorians!) and corrupted our conceptions of the characters ("Noooooo!") via the prequels, but also re-edited the existing films twice.

In dwelling of this, I realized I couldn't think of ANY other artist in all of art/literary/theatrical history who has done this. Art history is filled with examples of other people editing an artist's work and artists revising their own work due to censorship or poor reception, but has there ever, ever been anyone who has produced an immensely successful, popular work and retconned it as extensively as George Lucas?

The Vatican, after Michelangelo's death, decided to paint fig leaves over all the Sistine Chapel nudity. This would only parallel Lucas if Michelangelo himself had done it after deciding twenty years after the fact that it was the way he'd intended it from the get-go. Again, the closest parallels I can think of, Leaves of Grass and Six Characters in Search of an Author, don't come close. Whitman continually revised Leaves of Grass, but IIRC his revisions were mostly additions. I've been unable to find much information about Six Characters, but from what I've gathered the 1925 revision is considered to be far superior to the original and keeps the majority of the existing content of the play intact.

IANA art/literary/theatre historian, so go nuts.
posted by Ndwright to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, so Lucas is obsessive about revising his films. How does this make his process of revision any different than the multitude of changes artists make while creating a work? Yes, his are published (and very advertised so you can't miss them), but they are far from uncommon.

I would instead ask if there has been any artist/director/playwright who has worked the same project for as much money (estimated lifetime revenue for the Star Wars franchise is something like $20 billion).
posted by roygbv at 5:38 AM on June 5, 2008

It's not exactly a parallel, but Warner Bros. and other studios have been pulling, vaulting up, and refusing to release certain cartoons of theirs while producing new "classics" over time that are sometimes of questionable quality.

I'm not saying that studios should be proud of racist or propaganda cartoons, but it's an important part of their history and the history of the character. Whitewashing that history, while showing only the cartoons they are currently most proud of, paints the characters as "always having been" as they are now, rather than the evolution that occurred.

That's not even getting into the aggressive out-of-character merchandising that happens, like Tweety in stereotypical hip-hop regalia.
posted by explosion at 5:47 AM on June 5, 2008

roygbv, it's really important to note that George Lucas is committing these revisions post-release, after the film has been embraced and consumed by millions of people and pop culture at large. It is very different to make a change 20 years after release than to make it during production.

In older times, artist had patrons who would sponsor and buy the art. If Star Wars had a patron, George Lucas would have never been allowed to fiddle with his masterpiece 20 years later. The issue is essentially that we, the fans, are collectively the patron, and Lucas decided to sneak behind our backs, into our chapel, and repaint the ceiling while we were powerless to stop him.

I can't help wondering if Ndwright watched the re-run of South Park last night addressing this issue. I still can't believe they changed guns to walkie-talkies in ET.
posted by explosion at 5:53 AM on June 5, 2008

Isn't this what a lot of comic book producers (Batman, Spiderman, etc) are often accused of doing? Indeed, isn't ret-con a comic fandom term?

There was a lot of hubbub around the releases of Harry Potter 6 and 7 that smashed a lot of people's perceptions about the characters' love lives, with a lot of people claiming character changes all round.
posted by divabat at 5:59 AM on June 5, 2008

I think this happens all the time, although not with the scope of Lucas's effort. I think you have to try and separate the vast amount of money and influence Lucas has from what he's actually done to his own work. There are many artists who continually tinker and change previous work, but who don't have the wherewithal to do it with the scope Lucas uses.

One famous example was Walt Whitman, who published many editions of Leaves of Grass during his life. He rearranged, edited, added and subtracted poems from each edition. I'm not all that familiar with the history, but I do know that not all editions are considered equal, and that the later editions are not thought the best.
posted by OmieWise at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2008

Oh, shit. You mentioned Leaves of Grass already. (Yes, yes, I often skip the last paragraph because of my piss-poor concentration.)

I think you discount the L-O-G example too readily. The book was essentially Whitman's life's work. He didn't have access to either the technology or the money that Lucas has. I think the revisions are entirely consistent with what you're talking about.
posted by OmieWise at 6:04 AM on June 5, 2008

While we're talking about WB cartoons, I believe there is a (sort of) parallel there...

Back in the 70's, WB sent a collection of old B/W cartoons to Korea to be re-drawn and re-shot in color for use in tv syndication. The results were less than stellar. The drawings (basically tracings over enlarged frames from the films) were rough, lacked detail or line quality, the animation was choppy, and the sound didn't always sync with the action. Even worse, if you ever get to see one of these remakes, look closely dead-center in the frame. You can often actually see the reflection of the lens of the camera used to shoot the re-drawn cels.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd think comic books would count. I'm more familiar with Marvel so let's use Marvel's Spider-Man as an example.

First, the original Spider-Man comic, Amazing Fantasy 15, has been "restored" much like Star Wars. If you look at the Digital Comics Unlimited or the Marvel Masterworks reprints of AF15 the colors have virtually no resemblance to the original comic book printed. The Star Wars SEs were "digitally restored", the Marvel Masterworks were "recolored"

Then you have the retconning. It seems every major event in Spider-Man's life has alternate reasons. Like Uncle Ben's death... At first it was just a standard home invasion, then that was retconned with later comics that the thief had stashed money in the home. Plus these items were pretty much overwritten by Spider-Man the movie and the many Spider-Man cartoon interpretations.

Now, they didn't release Amazing Fantasy 15 with new panels foreshadowing Normon Osborne as Parker's greatest villain, but I think if you're looking for a direct parallel you're being too narrow-minded. The fact is everything that made Parker normal in AF15 has been given a tacked-on, rediculous backstory (his parents are spies, the house was holding money, Mary Jane saw him as Spider-Man when she lived next door, Mephisto erased their wedding), or just redone in cartoon/movie form.

And let's not overlook that Lucas set the president for this meddling in the 70s. When Star Wars came out it was Star Wars, not Episode IV: A New Hope. He tacked that on in (I believe) the 79 rerelease. So from the outset these movies were fluid....

And other than Hayden in ROTJ and Greedo shooting in ANH the SE upgrades really aren't bad at all... But I agree with you on the "Noooooooo"
posted by arniec at 6:26 AM on June 5, 2008

I don't know about Soviet films, but many works of Soviet literature were rewritten and republished as the official party dogma changed over the decades. Gladkov's Cement is a pretty famous example.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2008

The Beatles and Let it Be. Roni Size and New Forms. Alter Ego and Rockers.
posted by mkb at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2008

Frank Zappa and We're Only In It for The Money.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:34 AM on June 5, 2008

In 1983 the band Suicidal Tendencies released their self-titled debut album on LA indie label Frontier records. It was a huge hit by independent punk rock standards. Naturally, they had a big falling out with the label over money, and the album went out of print. A decade later, after personnel changes and after becoming a popular major label band, they re-recorded their classic debut album from scratch, added some songs, and released it with a new title and similar artwork on Epic.

One year after that, the band was dropped by Epic and broke up. Hooray!

OK, so the scale here is a little different from Star Wars, but hey, it's all I got...
posted by spilon at 6:36 AM on June 5, 2008

Patricia Highsmith continually revised her novel The Price of Salt; which she originally published under the name Claire Morgan.
posted by brujita at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2008

Back in the transition period between silent and talking movies, multiple directors recreated their silent works with sound.

Stravinski produced at least four versions of the Firebird Suite. J.S. Bach scores are probably best understood as snapshots of works that may have been substantially modified in performance. And of course, there is no such thing as a canonical version of a work in most performance-focused traditions including jazz, blues, medieval music, or rock. Leonard Cohen has never committed to a single version of Hallelujah.

Mary Shelly produced two versions of Frankenstein in 1818 and 1831, the latter containing significant revisions.

I suspect that there is a longer history of such "edits" in performance theater. A problem with identifying canonical Shakespeare is that many plays were substantially edited from performance to performance and published version to published version. And there are scenes that were traditionally cut for the sensibility of audiences, and brevity. Broadway shows were often substantially tweaked from season to season and audience to audience.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Multiple versions of Shakespeare's plays are known to exist within the Bard's lifetime, although it's unclear how much of that is Shakespeare's own revisions and how much comes from others.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2008

Way back in the 18th Century, Samuel Richardson was unhappy with the reception of his massive epistolary novel, Clarissa. He wouldn't alter the actual text, though, figuring the mis-interpretations of his work were due to his readers' "want of due attention." So he added footnotes, prefatory material, a long postscript, and even little typographical hand-pointing symbols to the text, evetually adding so much that he needed to add an extra volume. 250 years later, I wrote a Master's thesis on it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:01 AM on June 5, 2008

About Shakespeare, though -- it's my understanding that part of the reason why we have so many different folios of Shakespeare plays isn't because Shakespeare made all those edits. That may have been the reason for a couple of them, but the majority of the cases it's actually because of different publishers consulting with different actors about what the script was. For example: say Much Ado About Nothing becomes a hit. Shakespeare himself isn't ready to release the manuscript, so one publisher approaches John of Benchley, who played Beatrice, and gets the script from him. It starts selling well -- and another publisher then goes to Robert Bruce, who played Dogberry, and asks HIM what the script was, and gets HIS version. Still another publisher goes to Richard of Yorksbury, who played the other words, Shakespeare may not have been the only one editing Shakespeare's works.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on June 5, 2008

Well it's not exactly parallel but the composer Pierre Boulez is a serial revisioner of his early works. I'm not sure how many pieces of his have definitive versions, but there are several versions of his earlier works.

Another musical example is Stravinsky who made several versions of each of what are known as the Russian Ballets (The Firebird, Petrouschka and The Rite of Spring) but in his case this had a lot to do with the lack of harmonization in copyright law between Russia, France and the US in the first half of the twentieth century.
posted by ob at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2008

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned The Bible.
What many Westerners perceive as the "Word of God" is just in the latest of incarnations; the King James version, wildly popular, was published less than 400 years ago.
(Between 1560 and 1644 alone there were at least 144 different versions published, all slightly different...)
Basic plot lines remained the same, but there were some "nooooo" moments too.
posted by Dizzy at 7:08 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Architecture and interior decorating are both arts that have products that undergo continual revision.
posted by plinth at 7:16 AM on June 5, 2008

Bladerunner. But that was by faceless corporations.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2008

Stanley Kubrick re-edited A Clockwork Orange in order to make it suitable for American release, toning it down to bring it under a R-rating. Much earlier, in 1956, he re-edited The Killing to make it more linear (and ironically, more confusing to the audience.)
posted by grabbingsand at 7:21 AM on June 5, 2008

"There is no definitive musical text for Messiah because of the many changes Handel was obliged to make during the seasons it was performed. Some numbers were recomposed.... Others were customised for the soloists available.... Therefore it can be bewildering to sort out exactly which authentic version of Handel's Messiah - if any - to perform."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2008

I have heard people say that Yeats and Auden both ruined a lot of their work through excessive/obsessive revisions, but I'm afraid I can't offer specific examples from either poet's body of work.

Leaves of Grass is, of course, the classic example in poetry of obsessive re-writing over a long period of time -- though opinions differ greatly on whether the "originals" are better than the later versions of the work or vice-versa.
posted by aught at 7:37 AM on June 5, 2008

There's Spielberg re-editing ET to take the guns out etc. And the different version of Close Encounters.

Tarentino is supposed to be re-editing Kill Bill 1 and 2 into one long movie but that seems to be permanently on-hold.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:51 AM on June 5, 2008

I can't remember which one it was, and my google-fu is failing me, but I remember there was one artist who was notorious for touching-up his paintings even after he had sold them. In fact he had to restrained by guards when he entered an art gallery (the Louvre?) being told 'It's hung in a gallery, you have to accept it's finished!'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2008

We already knew Vader was a tightly repressed bundle of long-term anger and resentment that occasionally leaked out as he killed off his command staff, or gloated during a battle with Obi Wan. The prequels were not badly conceived, they were brilliantly conceived but badly implemented. They could have been great if Lucas had dropped the ego for long enough to hire a screenwriter and primary director with a sense for nuance of character.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:01 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Several comments:

Bladerunner. Go on youtube and look for the deleted scenes, there is what would have been the best scene in the movie, where Dekard visits Holden in the hospital and Gaff and The captain who's name I can't recall are watching on a video feed, and there is a brief discussion of metaphysics, which ends with Gaff saying "Yes you idiot" in japanese. Classic.

The US version of Clockwork Orange was release (and may still be sold this way) without the last chapter that has Alec growing out of his thug life and becoming a normal adult. Apprently the US audience hate sensible resolutions.
posted by Ponderance at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2008

The American Short Story writer Raymond Carver continued to tinker with his stories after their publication. In fact, several were re-published following the tinkering. The most famous example of this is, I think, "The Bath" rewritten and republished some years later as "A Small, Good Thing".
posted by notyou at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2008

This doesn't really work for plays or most of literature really, as it is possible to get printed works of older and revised versions of works in basically the same format. Film is different, because it’s not like people go around doing productions of films based upon one version of a script or another like with plays.

Apart from that, the thing that makes the Star Wars example (and ET, to a lesser extent) so egregious is that millions of people grew up deeply affected by these movies. It cannot be denied that they had a significant impact on many of us. Obviously not as life-changing as many more important world events, but nonetheless, our society was affected by those movies.

So it bothers me to see Lucas deciding “meh, some of the special effects in these films don’t look very good. I think I’ll fix them. Plus, I’ll add another 20 minutes of “parking lot” scenes, with ships taking off and landing. Further, I’m going to significantly change the nature of some of my characters and retcon some other stuff to match up with some newer, lesser works I’ve created.”

If Lucas wants to do that, he has every right to. They’re his works, he can change them as he sees fit. But I think it’s selfish not to allow the public that grew up with the original works to have the original works in the most common and advanced technology available. I think that – once millions of people spend billions of dollars on a piece of art – that art ceases to be under the control of the original creator. It’s not theirs any more, it’s everybody’s. Kind of like the word “escalator.”

Which is why I’m glad that Lucas FINALLY released the original trilogy on dvd.

But anyway, to answer the OP actual question, I can’t think of anything in history like what Lucas has done/is doing.
posted by nushustu at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2008

Wordsworth revised his (long, long) poem The Prelude throughout his life, from its beginnings in 1799 till his death in 1850.
posted by pised at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2008

Douglas Adams produced various versions of A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but that was mainly adapting it as he moved it from one medium to the other - radio, novel, television and (unrealised in his lifetime) film.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2008

So it bothers me to see Lucas deciding “meh, some of the special effects in these films don’t look very good. I think I’ll fix them. Plus, I’ll add another 20 minutes of “parking lot” scenes, with ships taking off and landing. Further, I’m going to significantly change the nature of some of my characters and retcon some other stuff to match up with some newer, lesser works I’ve created.”

A quote from Mark Hamill that I can't track the source down for now: when asked about Lucas' changes, he shrugged it off, saying that it was Lucas' right and he could do whatever he wanted. "But", Hamill added sadly, "I know that someday I'm going to be watching that film and someone else will be playing Luke Skywalker ..."
posted by outlier at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2008

The issue is essentially that we, the fans, are collectively the patron, and Lucas decided to sneak behind our backs, into our chapel, and repaint the ceiling while we were powerless to stop him.

Oh, give me a break. If these movies are a "chapel", they would in fact be Scientology temples or whatever they call them. High art (or high church) the Star Wars movies aint.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2008

Auden's "September 1, 1939" [previously; Wikipedia] originally contained the line "We must love one another or die." He later revised it:
"[I] said to myself: 'That's a damned lie! We must die anyway.' So, in the next edition, I altered it to 'We must love one another and die.' This didn't seem to do either, so I cut the stanza. Still no good. The whole poem, I realized, was infected with an incurable dishonesty--and must be scrapped."
"Publish - then edit and be damned" and "The World's Worst Critics" both discuss writers' changing their works after publication.

Alfred Hitchcock made The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934 and did a remake in 1956.

Let It Be is almost backwards. The Beatles recorded it in January 1969 intending to get back to the simpler recording styles of their early days (hence the initial title of Get Back). Phil Spector applied his Wall of Sound for the album's initial release in May 1970. The horribly-titled Let It Be…Naked, which was remastered to be closer to The Beatles' original intent, was released in November 2003.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:40 AM on June 5, 2008

In 2007 Cowboy Junkies made Trinity Revisited, a remake of their 1988 The Trinity Session.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2008

The problem with a lot of these examples like Let It Be is that other people's meddling is what drove the artists to revise or redo their original works. As for comic books, comic book characters fall under the whims of dozens of writers/producers over the course of the decades, all of whom have different ideas about where the character should go.

I'm looking specifically for individual artists who went back and fundamentally changed something of theirs that was already successful and made with relatively meddling on behalf of middlemen, like a painter who would add a figure to his already-successful painting or a playwright who would revise his work after it had been published, produced, and well-received. Good answers though, keep 'em coming. So far we have Leaves of Grass.

I have to rule out Shakespeare, the multiple versions of his plays that we have are mostly due to the fact that he never made an effort to publish anything he wrote. All of his work was published by others, we have no hard evidence that Shakespeare wrote a single word of any of those quartos or the first folio, thus all the ZOMG SHAKESPEARE WASNT SHAKESPEARE conspiracies out there (we have no hard evidence that those were his exact words, but there's an awful, awful, awful lot of corroboration, thus the reason the conspiracy theories are widely discredited).
posted by Ndwright at 10:18 AM on June 5, 2008

Er, and The Prelude, missed that one. Should preview more.
posted by Ndwright at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2008

Disney did this with Beauty and the Beast- for me the new IMAX version is unwatchable, as they brightened all the colors, replaced murkiness with sharp detail, and added a new musical number which ruins the tone of the film. You cannot redraw an animation and hope it is the same.

However Disney was smart enough to release all versions of the film on DVD, not just the IMAX re release.
posted by niccolo at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2008

Uh, um, ahem, and Raymond Carver and The Messiah. The perils of multitasking, kids. The article about "Publish - then edit and be damned" mentions Yeats. I know he revised his plays with some assistance from Lady Gregory, but that's because most of his plays were. . .for lack of a better word, "crap". I'll look into the poetry at some point.

Holy crap I can't believe I forgot Close Encounters. Hiding in plain sight. . .

And I forgot another film, The Warriors, which was rereleased on DVD with a new, unnecessary introduction and distracting transitions added by the director.
posted by Ndwright at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2008

Stephan King released a revised version of The Gunslinger, the first novel of The Dark Tower series, after he finished the series in 2003. There were some fairly significant changes in dialogue and a number of additional events that foreshadowed decisions he'd made in the final three books. Some of the changes are as significant as some of the revisions to the Star Wars films, though, having compared the old and the new versions, I'd say they're improvements, which the revisions to Star Wars were not. He's talked about revising The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands as well, though as far as I know he hasn't done so yet.
posted by Caduceus at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2008

This is a great thread. Please forgive me, I thought I knew enough about Star Wars, but what is "NOOOOO"?
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2008

"NOOOOO!" [around 3:40]
posted by kirkaracha at 12:33 PM on June 5, 2008

Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (Particularly 7, which is purely 1 re-made from scratch.)
posted by Mwongozi at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2008

This site claims that Berke Breathed has revised some of his Bloom County strips:
posted by erikgrande at 1:03 PM on June 5, 2008

Terminator 3 pretty handily dismissed the entire message of the second movie.
posted by Smallpox at 1:33 PM on June 5, 2008

I think this happens CONSTANTLY, in all art forms. The only difference is that with "Star Wars," more people know about it.

Many artists, authors, etc. show drafts of their work to select audiences. Some do this for years. Some actually give readings of drafts at conventions and such. I might go to one of those conventions, hear a reading, love it, and, later buying the published version, think the author ruined his original story.

You might see a Spaulding Gray movie and think of it as a done deal. But before that deal, there were dozens of live performances. I'm sure that some people saw him live, then saw the movie, and thought, "Why did he ruin it?"

Andre Gregory spent five years rehearsing "Uncle Vanya." At various points, he showed the latest version to audiences. You can see a sort-of example in the film "Vanya on 42nd Street." Speaking on "Uncle Vanya," this play is an adaption, by Chekhov, of his earlier play, "The Wood Demon." It's fascinating to read these two versions of the same story (they differ mostly in the final act).

There's a stage director -- I forget his name -- who re-directed Chekhov's plays for years and years (at The Williamstown Theatre Festival). Many Shakespearean directors go through the same process. Some have directed "Hamlet" ten times.

Musicians do this all the time, too. The tour, playing covers of their own stuff. Their covers often change radically over time.
posted by grumblebee at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

OP wrote: As for comic books, comic book characters fall under the whims of dozens of writers/producers over the course of the decades, all of whom have different ideas about where the character should go. I'm looking specifically for individual artists who went back and fundamentally changed something of theirs that was already successful . . . .

OP, from the point of view of the "patron" (the adoring public), revision of an established character or plot raises all the same issues whether the revision is done by a single producer (e.g. Lucas) or several producers (the editors and publishers of a comic book).
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2008

Seconding Boulez. Anton Bruckner was also pretty famous for constantly going back and revising his symphonies.
posted by dfan at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2008

Speaking of Stephen King, the original version of The Stand took place in 1980. When the Complete and Uncut Edition was released, the setting had been changed to 1990 -- but it was a crappy, sloppy job, because the time change meant that a lot of little things within the book should have been changed to match the new setting, and they weren't. Anachronisms abound.
posted by litlnemo at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I find interesting about superhero comic retcons, actually, is that over time the retcon does become the semi-accepted canon, at least for a while, and then eventually the fans (or patrons, if you will) become the artists and impose their will. Often, with more retcons to repair the first retcons, and so it goes.

There's actually a fascinating blow-up going on in Spider-Man comics right now, a sort of generational clash of editorial versus fans, a mid-life crisis en masse, which goes something like this:

Joe Quesada, Marvel E-i-C: Hey fans, great news! You know how Spidey comics have gotten a bit off track lately, right?
Fans: *warily* Um, maybe.
Joe Quesada: We've figured out how to fix it! The problem is that Peter Parker and Mary Jane are married! We'll just magically unmarry them, and all will be well!
Fans: ... Wait, wtf? But Mary Jane is awesome! They've been married TWENTY YEARS! That's half of Spidey's history!
Joe Q: Aww, shucks, guys, you just THINK you like the marriage 'cause you don't know any better. But Peter can't get laid when he's married to a smoking hot actress who thinks he's the best human being on the planet! Anyway, kids can't relate to married people, everyone knows that.
Fans: ...
Joe Q: Also, married people are boring.
Fans: ... Aren't you married?
Joe Q: *snaps fingers* So now Peter and MJ made a deal with the devil to undo their marriage to save Aunt May's nonagenarian live, and everything ROCKS! Everything is the same, except, you know, the last twenty years of continuity.
Fans: I'm sorry, the devil? You're forcing this on us and the best you can do is -- the devil?
Joe Q: Isn't Spidey so HIP and YOUNG now, MACKING on WIMMEN and stuff? Don't you hip, young people eat this stuff up?
Fans: *mass aneurysm over the internet*

It would be spectacularly fun to watch the drama if I weren't, you know, sitting around going OMG MARY JANE DOES NOT HAVE A VAGINA DENTATA GIVE US BACK OUR SPIDER-MAN.
posted by bettafish at 1:11 AM on June 6, 2008

bettafish: as a long time OMD griper, I thought I'd heard it all, but a reference to vagina dentata and OMD is PRICELESS.

If you're going to comiccon, I'll buy you a beer for making me laugh that hard.
posted by arniec at 6:34 AM on June 6, 2008

Again, most of these examples don't work, as the OP has noted. Rewriting poetry or changing a musical composition doesn't mean that the original lines of poetry cannot be read, or that an orchestra cannot perform the original music. Those are like the changes a script goes through before it's shot. But once the movie is shot, that's it. If the creator changes it, fine. But if he or whoever owns the dvd/distribution rights don't continue to release the original version in the newest formats, the audience loses.
posted by nushustu at 8:01 AM on June 6, 2008

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