DC says Comic is 'Unacceptable'
September 11, 2008

This week, DC recalled one of their books.  For extremely offensive word use.  Apparently, they attempted to black out the words, but in the final analysis apparently you can still read them.  So now they are being recalled.

I’m not going to dwell on what the words were, that has been done by others, but this event begs the question, how did it get that far?  Is it not someone’s job to monitor the content so that this does not happen?  Would that not be the editor?  Or in this day and age is the Editor really a coordiantor, making sure the script gets to the artist, the art gets from the penciller to the inker, the pages from the colorist to the letterer?

Whatever their role, someone at DC allowed a story with objectionable language to get to print.  Was it too much work to stop it in mid development?  Shouldn’t there be somone who reads the script and reviews the story at each step to make sure it is ‘acceptable’?  Maybe there was before, but these days, I doubt it.  Why?  Because over the past decade or so, the stories have taken on a darker tone, a scary twist, some titles have become horror stories.

Green Lantern: girlfriend killed and put in the refridgerator.  I was not reading the book at the time and only found out when I bought a bunch of back issues.
Green Arrow: Onomotapia is introduced by several graphic scenes of him killing unknown vigilantes.  To my knowledge, he was never cought.
Green Arrow: Black Lightning’s niece is introduced and hung to death within a single six issue story.
JSA 1: Mr. America’s entire extended family is killed off in bloody panels.
Tangent Superman’s Reign: two security guards killed in issue 1.  One is shot, the other has his head cut off.
Birds of Prey: A teleported character explodes.
Green Lantern Corps: right now: the villain is killing off the family members of GLC  members and sending their eyeballs to Corps on the planet OA.  just gross.
I used to read comics to escape the real world.  This is not an escape, its a nightmare.

So, where are the story cops?  The people whose job it is to keep the stories within certain boundaries of good taste?  I think we’ve seen this week that they do not exist.  Its sad.  DC could sell me several more comics each month if they were not filled with over the top gore.  As it is, I pick up a title I am interested in, and in the case of Tangent Superman’s Reign, I was going to buy it.  Flipping through I saw the security guard get his head cut off.  That killed the whole series right there.  I have to assume that this level of violence, which I find unacceptable will be repeated, so I decided then and there not to buy the entire series.  12 comics unsold because 1 scene was chosen to be portrayad in an over the top gory way.  I had to drop Green Arrow’s book.  After the hanging of Black Lightning’s niece I could’t take it any more.  My favorite hero, but I could no longer buy his book.  I had already dropped Nightwing and Batgirl as too gory.  Hawkman I dropped after they showed a mans head in a pot and his body on the next page.  JSA #1, I read and took back to the store.  I will not pick up the series.  Identity Crisis introduced rape to the comics.  Did it need to be here?  I think not.

This kind of stuff is not necessary.  Good stories can be written which involve suspence and danger without blood on every other page and dead bodies thrown around.  Editors, do your job, stop the bad ideas before the reach print.  And I’ll do mine, I’ll buy the books if you keep the blood and gore to a minimum and end the human mutilation.  I’m not here to read CSI.  I’m here to read about the heroes saving the people BEFORE the people die.

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.





  • The Tekwych says:

    Are you channeling Steve Bennett or is he channeling you?


  • Adam K says:

    You are seriously missing out by not reading JSA. Outside of that first issue, the series is mostly light and humorous and definitely superhero-y.

  • Texgnome1 says:

    I hadn’t heard about the book being recalled, but sadly it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always expected a certain amount of violence, language, and sexual innuendo in my comics. But the levels to which many writers have begun to stoop is fast approaching intolerable levels. I certainly support writers’ free speech – that’s what makes this country great. BUT – I also support my right to disapprove. I do so with my pocketbook, as well as my recommendations to friends. Just as with many movies, TV shows, and novels, many of the comics writers have taken the attitude that R-rated (or even X-rated) = good comic books. It CAN be good and still be edgy. But it doesn’t have to be. Thanks for the column Superfriend.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Not Steve Bennett, just me. Thanks for linkign his column. Maybe I’m not alone in this. This topic has been a long time coming from me, it just needed the proper spark to make to print. And the recall was it. I read about the recalled story on http://www.ComicBookResources.com in their [B]Lying in the Gutters[B] column.

    I really want to read Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps on a regular and ongoing basis, I’m a fan of Hal, John, Guy, and Kyle. and Kilowog too. But they keep telling stories which just turn me off due to the excessive gore. I would buy them every month if they toned it down. As it is, I leaf through them in the store or read the reviews on line to keep up.

  • Miry Clay says:

    My oldest son is well old enough to start reading comics. But despite being a life long fan, I am discouraging him from picking up any mainstream books by either big company. Both companies are too dark, too violent. DC is marginally better right now, since to this point its the villians doing the raping and killing. Marvel has decided snuffing people’s not just for the Punisher anymore. (Revealing Spider-Woman as a Skrull doesn’t make Wolverine assualting her in the shower any easier to accept.)
    Yes, there are specific kid friendly comics out there, and I let him get those on occassion. But I remember buying my first Spider-Man comic when I was his age, not Spidey Super-Stories, but a mainstream comic book. Sure, occassionally someone died. One of the first comics I ever read the Swordsman died. But it’s nothing like goes on today. Green Lanterns can kill now. Hawkeye, one of the last of the “no kiling” Marvel guys, is out to kill every Skrull he can find. This isn’t the kind of stories I want him reading.
    And without kids going into the hobby, the hobby shrinks even further.
    But hey, Wizard still thinks you’re cool.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Miry Clay,
    May I suggest stopping by a comic store with a deep section of back issues. My son, now 14, his favorite series, which he has read over and over again, is Young Justice. There is an issue or two which deal with more adult concepts, but overall, its a fun read and abotu 50 issues beginning to end.(unfortunately, at this point in time, 2 of the main characters – Superboy and Impulse – are dead, a fact which I shielded my son from until he read it in an earlier blog I wrote.)
    If he enjoyed the Teen Titans Go show on TV, I can recommend the comic by the same name. again, about 50 issues for the whole series.

  • Scott Rogers boneyard says:

    You’re not the only one. I’ve felt like this for years – since the late 80′s when all of the Grim N’ Gritty had a grip on comics that all but strangled the kid-audience to death. Remember DC’s slogan “Comics aren’t just for kids!” well, mission accomplished DC. I can’t show my kids a current issue of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Robin, Justice League or Justice Society for that matter. They’re all too dark, too violent, too mature and frankly, not very fun.

    I had my one moment of “put your money where your mouth is” when I created and published my superhero Bedbug – but in the end it just felt like yelling into the storm. You can read them all for free at my Bedbug blog.

    I’m afraid this is the sign of the times and the times are very dark indeed.

  • SuperG says:

    I have to agree. Comics have sunk below the level of sewage when it comes to much of what is considered ‘acceptable’ in today’s world. Sadly, this trend isn’t limited to comics, as a crude, lewd, savage, almost grotesque barbarism has infiltrated every form of entertainment these days.
    Which might explain why I watch, read, and buy so little now compared to a decade or so ago.
    I simply cannot stomach this unnecessary assault of ‘over-indulgent/self-indulgent’ gore-fest-ness so many seem to wallow in.
    Give me a little reality to help me believe the fantasy, not an orgy of reality that makes me sick of the fantasy.

  • Hourman says:

    I sold all my Infinite Crisis books because I just got fed up with all the stupidly over-the-top violence: people ripped in half, burned in half, arms and legs pulled off, heads literally punched off. I dunno if it was Geoff Johns’ or Dan Didio’s idea of “edgey” “adult” entertainment, but it was SO gratuitous and bizarre that it became laughable and made the story laughable. Currently a low ebb for the company that just a decade ago was bringing us books like James Robinson’s “Starman”, John Ostrander’s “The Spectre” and “Kingdom Come”.

  • DragonsKeep says:

    I hope you will allow me to express a different point of view here. I just don’t see how what you guys are talking about isn’t censorship. And that’s unnervingly un-American. Like book-banning. Book-burning. This reminds me of the people out there right now looking to “reform” our country into a “culture of life,” which, by the way, includes guns for everyone. The irony is just too much. I say, no thanks. Look, if you don’t like it, then by all means, don’t buy it, don’t read it, don’t watch it. Nobody’s twisting your arm…or tearing it off, as the case may be here. There are enough of the rest of us who will go in for this kind of stuff, and who will allow the business to thrive. And we have rights, too. If you feel the need to shelter your kids from pulp, even a fourteen-year-old boy, heaven help him, then fine. That’s your right. And you’ll probably get away with it for about another year. Unfortunately, most middle-school boys are not that sheltered, and you’re running the risk of allowing your kid to get eaten alive out there in the real world. And what’s worse than the microcosm if a middle-school schoolyard? I can think of nothing, and I didn’t even get picked on as a kid. I don’t have to tell you that it’s 2008. The clan from Leave it to Beaver doesn’t live here anymore. DC puts out a number of kid-friendly books. You mentioned “Young Justice.” That’s what I think you are looking for. Enjoy them. Be my guest. You can even have my copy! Those are the books that I can do without. You don’t like the pulp. I don’t like the kid stuff. We’re even. Let’s respect each others right to read what we want to read. You and I live in a world where religious fanatics actually fly commercial airplanes full of average every-day people into buildings full of average every-day people, and hacksaw peoples’ heads off, slowly, on the internet. I don’t know about you, but nothing really shocks me all that much anymore. Is the current DC Universe entertaining? Not always. More in touch with what might really happen in a universe of superheroes and super villains? Well, yeah. Shocking? Sometimes. But that’s OK with me. By the way, it would have helped if you had named the title that DC pulled, and perhaps hinted at the specifics of whatever was supposedly so offensive. Then maybe we all would know what you were blogging about. This is the only site I visit, so I am not entirely in touch with all the comic shop news and gossip. You must call yourself “Superfriend,” because that kind of nostalgic good vs evil Saturday morning fare is what appeals to you. Very Leave it to Beaver, if you asked me. Unfortunately, it seems, your fantasy world has left you behind, rather than vice versa. And most of us have moved on as well. I say ‘most of us’ because I see what sells these days. As a very liberal New Yorker, it’s seldom that I hear or read your point of view. You’re entitled to it. But please do not force your views upon others.


  • UncleMarsellus says:

    Andy, sorry, but that’s not censorship. When the government gets involved and starts making up a list of objectionable material that can’t be published or starts removing books from libraries, then I’ll be with you. Until then, these are all editorial choices driven by sales. That’s the “market place of ideas” that drives the First Amendment of this country. There’s no censorship but the public decides what they want and what is valid. No one in this thread that I see is advocating any kind of censorship. Just advocating spending your money on something else or just ranting about the direction comics have gone. That is absolutely American last time I checked.

    Your diatribe is misinformed and confused. You’re entitled to your opinion but at least get your assumptions right.

    And I think the Huxtables would be a more contemporary example of blandness than the Cleavers. I mean, Leave it to Beaver was on 40 or 50 years ago! ;)

  • Erik superfriend says:


    Wow, you covered a lot of territory with that.

    I find the wording used so offensive that I did not want to mention the book by name or direct link any of the articles. I have not heard anyone use these words in over a decade. I figure most folks here are comic fans first and visit comic info sites. Its all over them, even the fact that people are profiting on the recall by selling copies for inflated prices on eBay.

    The incident gave me the opportunity to put forth my opinion on one aspect of the comics industry today. The fact that I think no one is watching the house to make sure the content is ‘desirable’. Every company should have someone looking at what they produce in order to ensure it is the product they intend to deliver. That’s not sensorship, its good business. If your company makes wheels and all of a sudden you make a bunch that are egg shaped and just ship them anyway, your customers will be upset and logically, the guy who was supposed to make sure the right product got out should get censored. On a bad day, he would get fired.

    You might call my asking for content to be reviewed censorship, but the comic book industry used to produce stuff that met a certain self imposed set of criteria. It was The Comics Code Authority, and that symbol used to appear on every comic book. Think of it like the ratings used on film and video games, except they only had one rating. Comics no longer carry any ratings. Maybe they should. What I shielded my son from was the fact that 2 of his favorite heroes had died, nothing more.

    There is nothing more American than the free market economy. I explicity spelled out the conditions that would allow DC Comics to make more money off of me. Make the product I want and I will buy it.

    Back in 1996, I talked with the editor of JLA. I was in his office as part of a tour of DC Comics. I was just a fan who had called ahead. I still remember him telling me it was partly my fault that the Detroit era of the League went as long as it did. It was the completists like me, who had to own every issue which skewed the market returns numbers. If more of us had dropped the book, it would have ended sooner and a new direction started sooner.

    I think DC tried to go in a new direction about 5 years ago. We can either blindly follow, as I did back then, or we can tell them we would prefer a different direction. By email, blog, mail, or wallet. I have used my blog to tell them how to get more out of my wallet.

  • Spilldog says:

    What happened to the Comics Code Authority? Back in the 60s and 70s they made sure the content of comics was safe for young readers. The CCA seems to have disappeared sometime in the 90s. Even if you put “ratings” on comics (much like the ones put on music), there’s nothing to stop kids from buying them. And I agree with one of the previous posts: I read comics as an escape from everyday life. Beheadings, bloody killings, rape, and filthy language have no place in comics. You can create a good story and have incredible art work without “slice and dice” “blood and gore” splashed all over every page. DC Comics is the company that gave us Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman; these characters are American icons. DC Comics has a proud, rich history in our American culture and it seems a shame to have that proud history sullied by disgusting, horrific images, filthy language, and smut.

  • Sander T. says:

    I have not read the comic book you mention and I would really like to have a sample of those pages to be able to agree or disagree with you guys. In that respect, the recall works in practice as censorship, somebody else decides that I can’t read a comic book. Why? Suddenly DC realized it was too over the top? I don’t buy it, I think DC was perfectly aware of what was being sent to the shelves until somebody got scared of the possible bad press it could arouse and the powers that be decided to recall it on the name of decendy and responsability. The comic would make less money than trouble and a bussiness decision was taken. That is all.

    I think it is far more interesting to ask ourselves why DC would run such a risk. And the answer to me has nothing to do with ethics, it has to do with a formula. Both DC and Marvel have become formulaic: to sell comics we need to create scandal, in any form, verbal, graphic, plot driven: rape somebody, dismember one other, kill Captain America. (Kill everybody if need be). And formulas are gimmicks, sometimes writers like Meltzer or Johns do plausible, not gratuitous stories where violence and scandal are well played and story driven. But when the formula hits the fan and everyting has to revel in gore in order to sell, comics become non substantial, they create an effect, temporary at best, but devoid of a trascendent meaning. Everybody dies but then everybody comes back again, so death becomes unsignificant, unimportant. Who cares?

    In fact DC and Marvel have lost the one thing that makes the comics genre specific, self explanatory, meaningful, as we all-timers know, comic books have to be inspirational. It’s not about how violent, how “realistic”, if it is inspirational it can be as violent as the story allows. But as of now, we are seeing the hands of the editors too much in the comics’ gimmicks, kill, maim, devastate, massacre, and too little in the comics’ soul: make us believe again.

  • MisterPL says:

    For anyone looking for a good, contemporary comic with classic sensibilities, I strongly recommend back issues of DC’s Batman titles based on the Bruce Timm animated series. They were smartly written, generally self-contained stories with zero profanity. They were the last Bat-titles I collected on a regular basis and really miss them. They’re just plain fun.

    As for the topic at hand, I sincerely hope the right head rolls for this. I’ve been a Batman fan for decades and never saw a reason to sink to such lows just to sell books. How about just giving folks a good story, hm?

  • stewbacca says:

    I hope everyone realizes this title was All Star Batman and Robin– written by Frank Miller-the same Frank Miller everyone defended and declared a writing genius back in the 80′s – the same Frank Miller who inspired 300 and its violent over the top look- and every single issue to this point has had cuss words blacked out. If you didnt know this title existed until this issue has come up- shame on you. I actually buy it because it is laughable how bad it is and the art is different- and its an alternate univers version I find entertaining.
    Think of this comic as Sin City starring Batman– thats exactly what it is.. Black Canary is a prostitute barmaid, Wonder Woman is a man-hater who Superman is doing, and Flash is laughable. There are comments about child endangerment discussions all over the place as well as underage slutty comments about Batgirl. And Robin crosses the line last issue and has green lantern on the verge of death– because it shows that Batmans lifestyle would totally affect a 10 year old kid.. And like I said most people who read this buy it to mock it — because he’s “the Goddamn Batman”

    I understand your points about wanting it to be the way it was — I love Young Justice, and pick up and enjoy all the cartoon titles — Including Gargoyles (self plug– buy the DVD and Get Season 2 Part II Made). But I also pick up Marvel Zombies because I actually find the over the top violence funny. But I also felt the recent mutilated Death of Wendy and Marvin in Teen Titans was unecessary and a bad over the top. So I can see both sides. But I agree in the above statement–vote with you wallet, dont try and make the Comics change because you want them to go back to the feel good times of the 70′s- because with them we will get the crappy art of the 70′s as well— my opinion– I hate Kirbys art– and give me the Dark Horse Star Wars art over 70s-80s marvel Star wars anyday– same with G.I. Joe.. I think its time to face it… times have changed and you are just stuck with a bunch of remember whens. Comics really arent for kids any more– an in the day in age where holding actual paper is seen as obsolete and there are more and more webcomics and more and more options to just read them online– I dont think the kids or the publishing houses will even care in a few more years.

    And saying that they need to change comics for the kids is just as relevant as saying JLU or DCUC is for the kids as well, its just not true and at this point is falling on deaf ears.

  • Miry Clay says:


    Yeah, I obviously understand Frank Miller means kid inappropriate by definition. And Frank Miller has his place, as does Marvel Zombies and any number of other “adult” themed books.

    You bring up JLU and the Timm-verse. No, they were’nt “made for kids”, but kids could watch them and enjoy them. You can’t say that about most of todays’ “all ages” comics. I’m not asking for cartoony and silly. Prehaps I’m being naive, but I think you can write an intelligent story that would please most adult fans, and still be something I could let my kid read. All too often, that’s not the case anymore.

    And BTW SF, our local library actually has a really nice coolection of DCAU, Teen Titans, Marvel Adventures and other kid-verse graphic novels that my son really ejoys. Of course, right now he’s got hid nose stuck in my DC/Marvel crossovers vol.1 collection.

  • Spilldog says:

    I’ve read enough of Frank Miller’s “All Star Batman and Robin” to know I don’t like it. This series is a mockery to the legend of Batman and an insult to the memory of Bob Kane and the beloved Batman he created and that we, as kids, all loved and adored.

  • Hourman says:

    There is a universe of difference between censorship and good taste. DC Comics is free to print whatever they like and they’re also free to refrain from printing whatever they like. But just because you *can* print or say or do something doesn’t mean you *should*. Good taste and good judgment has nothing to do with censorship.

  • Hourman says:

    “… we will get the crappy art of the 70’s as well …”

    John Romita, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Jim Aparo, George Perez, John Buscema = not-crappy ’70s art

    The list goes on and on.

  • Norman says:

    yep everyday it gets harder to buy certain comics, mostly DC. I don’t let my kids read them except Superfriends and Tiny Titans. Everything else is a little too graphic. Marvel is actually less graphic on their main title than DC. I liekto read comics and wathc movies that let me escape the teh evil of the world. I don’t go to them to remind of how bad it is. That is what the CNN and the 6 o’clock news is for. Thye should n’thave to compete with video game gore but set themselves apart from them.

  • sam says:

    I think you make some good points, but I think there is also room for some different stories as well.

    I have to agree with you on one point in particular: Identity Crisis.

    A lot of the luster of the DC Universe was lost on me with the rape of Sue Dibny.

    I’m not a huge fan of Ralph or Sue at all, but certainly knew the characters from JLI. They were essentially harmless background characters who most fans were familiar with. Low profile enough that anything could be done with them without hurting the bottom line, but well known enough that there was some cache to hurting them. The icing on that sick cake was depicting Sue as having been pregnant at the time of her murder. It was all crap shock value. The equivalent of raping and murdering a wacky neighbor on a sitcom.

    And it disgusted me with DC Comics in a way I had never been before.

    Some of the other scenes you point out are in questionable taste, but none were as graphic or as flat out mean spirited as this. I think that kind of coarse behavior does not need a place in mainstream comics. Especially something that was solicited and promoted as being a prime example of the industry and accessible.

    It made me switch up to Marvel for most of my purposes, and frankly, I rarely look back. (and PS. MArvel DOES have a ratings system in place on all of their books, akin to the TV-7, TV-14 ratings on television).

    Now the Frank Miller thing…It has always been promoted as being for adults. I think most knowledgeable comics readers know what they are getting into with Frank at this point. There is a lot of over-the-top stuff in all of Frank Miller’s Batman works, and to my mind, that is part and parcel of buying his stuff. I actually enjoy the series, quite honestly. I would, however, lose my mind of this book was being promoted as being acceptable for an all ages audience. Or if it was part of a “shared” universe with an all ages book. I mean, let’s be honest..Identity Crises, in addition to featuring an incredibly brutal rape scene had a very gory death scene for Robin’s father. And Robin, which is an all ages book (and one likely to be more popular with children at the time due to the Teen Titan cartoon) tied directly into that series. You can yell and scream all day long that the actual Robin tie-in issues were clean and acceptable, but what they tied in to was not at all allowable for a 10 year old boy.

    This All Star book is isolated and does its own thing in its own space. And I’m ok with that. I think that is fine to have this other option out there. Just don’t make this “other” option the only option. Keep it out of the all ages stuff.

  • Erik superfriend says:


    I think you hit on an idea very clearly. I wish I had done it that well. “Just don’t make this the only option.” I think that sums up a lot of my reaction to recent changes.

    I’d given up on the Batman line of titles years ago. However, the ending of Young Justice and the death of Blue Beetle was a sign from DC that there was “no room” for fun comics any more. (Actually, the new Blue Beetle up thru issue 25 has been one of the best books out there for lighter reading. Not sure about the new direction under the new writer since then.)

    “Just don’t make this the only option.” – I like it.

  • I love All-Star Batman & Robin; I’ve enjoyed every issue. Profanity doesn’t bother me; I use it myself. I like violence and gore in my comics, and if kids actually bought and read comic books, DC would publish more kid-friendly stuff. Children in general have no interest in them, though, so they’re writing for their audience. That’s just good business right there. People can talk about “smut” or “filthy” language all they like, but to say there is “no place” for it in comics is a lot more offensive than any of the words Frank Miller used. That suggests that people like me, readers who enjoy Miller, or a writer like Steve Niles, should just do without, simply because you want all comics to be bland and sanitized. I’m all for “options” for children who will read comics, but it gets really old to see people insist that what they want is the only acceptable way of doing things. I mena, I don’t see anyone who reads vampire comics telling DC they shouldn’t publish Tiny Titans.

  • Robiwan says:

    Caped Crusader,

    I have to respectfully disagree with you. Kids do buy and read them. Many times when I am in Hastings or Barnes and Noble, young children will come and innocently pick up comics of all sorts. Often, if there is a way to tactfully do it, I make some small talk with their parent and then show them some of the content in the comics. I find most parents are sadly unaware of the level of profanity, innuendo, violence and skin in comics today. I know the immediate response from my dissenters will be something like, “well, it’s the parents’ job to see monitor what their kids are reading, not the comic companies.” Granted. Consider this however; if your child was going with a friend to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm, would you think, “I should probably see if that’s an okay place for my kid to go?” I doubt it. I believe the average parent who, unlike me, quit reading comics 15 or more years ago sees them still as primarily a child’s medium of entertainment. (Yes, I know Image started around 15 years ago and it wasn’t all roses then either. Sheesh! Just understand my point and don’t nitpick.)

    I guess I would fall into the camp that would prefer mainstream comics be truly, ‘for all ages,’ (intelligent, gripping stories with great art) and that those that want gore have some specialty comics to feed those Marvel Zombie urges.

    As a parent of a 13 year old (who is a killer artist by the way you will be seeing his name someday) this blog is making me seriously reevaluate which titles I will buy from now on. Do as I say, not as I do isn’t a great parenting style.


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