Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Unknown Ditko Marvel Cover?

The cover to Tales of Suspense # 45 has puzzled me for some time. This time out I'll share my step by step process of investigation, deduction and conclusions.


Tales of Suspense # 45, Sept 1963, lettering by Artie Simek, colors by Stan Goldberg, art by??

This cover is often cited as pencils by Jack Kirby and inks by Don Heck, and the error is understandable because it's partially correct (stay with me, they'll be a quiz at the end..)

When examining this cover something bugged me. Iron Man looked like a Kirby/Heck drawing, but the figures and poses of Jack Frost, Happy and Pepper didn't. 


                                                     Close-up of Kirby/Heck's Iron Man.

The Iron Man pose also looked awfully familiar, so I decided to go through Tales of Suspense #'s 39-44 which included all of Iron Man's stories up to that date, and I soon found what I was looking for.

   
        The splash page to Tales of Suspense # 43, July 1963. Jack Kirby pencils; Don Heck inks.

The figure of Iron Man used on the cover of Tales of Suspense # 45 was a stat taken from the splash page of Tales of Suspense # 43, published two months earlier! The illustration is exactly the same, with only a little "ice" added to his armor. This meant that it replaced a different Iron Man drawing that was apparently rejected by either editor/art director Stan Lee or publisher Martin Goodman for reasons lost to time. Kirby had penciled every Tales of Suspense/Iron Man cover before this one, and Don Heck, Iron Man's primary artist on interior stories,was rarely given cover assignments (some exceptions include Tales to Astonish # 49, Kid Colt, Outlaw # 113 and Two-Gun Kid # 66, all cover-dated November 1963). Jack Kirby was Marvel's primary cover artist in this period; the  exceptions being Stan Goldberg and Al Hartley on the teen humor/"girl" titles (Millie the Model, Patsy Walker, Modeling with Millie, Patsy and Hedy and Kathy) and Steve Ditko handling the Spider-Man cover art.  

Once I discovered the Kirby/Heck image was a stat I took a closer look at the other figures on the cover.


                                            An isolated image of the new cover art.

The first thing that struck me was Jack Frost. The villain lacked the solidity that Jack Kirby brought to his characters. The pose does have a Steve Ditko flavor, particularly Frost's fingers and gesture on his right hand. Happy and Pepper also had poses that looked Ditko-esque. Could this be a Ditko cover, inked by Don Heck? (there is no doubt in my mind that the inks are by Heck whose sharp line is evident) Was a Ditko Iron Man image replaced by a Kirby drawing? As of this writing no unaltered stats of the original cover have been discovered, but one never knows what will turn up...

I took a look at the interior Heck artwork to see if I could decipher any differences. 

      
                      The splash page to Tales of Suspense # 45, with sensational art by Don Heck.

Jack Frost doesn't look significantly different from the cover image, although that's not surprising since covers were often produced after the interior story was drawn, and Ditko would have based his figure on Don Heck's.   


"Iron Man Battles the Melter!", Tales of Suspense # 47, November 1963. Steve Ditko and Don Heck art. 

Two issues later Steve Ditko took over the art on Iron Man for a three issue run while Don Heck filled in on Thor in Journey into Mystery. According to Heck, Ditko only provided breakdowns, not full pencils, and Heck did the finished art. Heck's strong hand is clearly evident throughout the story, although the layout, figures and poses point to Ditko's involvement.     



Ditko drew Jack Frost some sixteen years later when he was an adversary of the Incredible Hulk, including a flashback to his first appearance. (thanks to Jon Holt for the reminder!). The Incredible Hulk # 249, July 1980. 

 So, who drew the cover? My gut instinct tells me that Ditko penciled the cover, but there is no conclusive proof. As often happened in the nascent period of Marvel's super-hero line, a hectic pace led to anyone stopping in the office lending a hand. Stan Lee may have needed a cover quickly; perhaps Steve Ditko showed up in the office and penciled it for him. When inked by Heck, Lee may have been disappointed in Iron Man's pose, and, with deadlines breathing down his neck, used a stat in lieu of new artwork. As an indexer for the GCD I added question marks to the artist id:

http://www.comics.org/issue/17894/


As my friend and fellow art identifier Michael J. Vassallo often states, there's no shame in adding a question mark when you're not 100% certain of an artist's contribution. 

We may never know the genesis of this cover, but it remains one of the many comic art mysteries that continually intrigue me. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alan Class unaltered Atlas/Marvel covers

Alan Class was a publisher in the UK who reprinted American comics from approximately 1961-1989. Titles such as Creepy Worlds, Sinister Tales, Secrets of the Unknown and Uncanny Tales included an array of content, licensed from companies including ACG, Charlton, Archie/Radio Comics and Atlas/Marvel. His comics line was not dated allowing titles to be continuously reissued over the years. For a more thorough account of Class' line please check this blog:

 http://themagicrobot.wordpress.com/category/alan-class-comics/

This link to the Grand Comic Book Database will connect you to all of Alan Class' titles:  http://www.comics.org/publisher/3391/

Class reprinted a mixture of Atlas/Marvel material, primarily mystery/monster and superhero: everything from Tales of Suspense to Amazing Spider-Man. A fascinating discovery is that some of the cover art they used was on occasion taken from unaltered stats Marvel sent them. 

Before final publication covers were often tinkered with for various reasons; sometimes changes were minimal - altering a word balloon - other times there were changes to figures, faces, backgrounds, etc. While its likely that Editor Stan Lee or Publisher Martin Goodman made most decisions, sometimes the Comics Code objected to a cover image and last minute changes were instituted.  For a more detailed discussion check my earlier blog post: http://nick-caputo.blogspot.com/2012/02/unaltered-reprint-covers.html 

And now let's compare the original covers to the unaltered versions. 


The cover to Astonishing # 50, June 1956, Carl Burgos cover art? Burgos alterations? Stan Goldberg colors.


The cover to Creepy Worlds # 12. The raised right arm and frightened face of the man and the giant bare hand differs from the Atlas version. I'm assuming someone at the Comics Code Authority came to the conclusion that the addition of formal attire made the giant hand less frightening. All Alan Class cover images from the GCD.


Strange Tales # 113, October 1963, Jack Kirby pencils; Don Heck inks; Sol Brodsky alterations ?; Artie Simek letters; Stan Goldberg colors. 

                   

Creepy Worlds # 51: here is an interesting find. Two major changes appear on this unaltered stat. Stan Lee had the word balloons altered before publication. I guess the "wet dew" was considered more threatening than just the trees and bushes attacking the Torch! Also, take a look at the trees - Kirby's original gave them faces - the published Strange Tales cover eliminates the faces (although they still have "arms and legs"). I find the unaltered cover to have more personality. In both versions the top half of the Human Torch appears to have been touched up by an artist other than Kirby - possibly Sol Brodsky. The crude line work suggests to me that Kirby originally drew Johnny Storm in his civilian guise since the "wet dew" would have doused some of flame. Lee may have felt the Torch would be more recognizable in his flaming appearance. If so, an even earlier version of this cover may have been drawn. 

Side-note: "The Coming of the Plantman!" was scripted by Joe Carter - NOT the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder who hit a walk off home run in the 1993 World Series  - but the co-creator of Superman, Jerry Siegel, under a pseudonym. 

 
  Tales of Suspense # 44, August 1963. Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Artie Simek letters; Stan Goldberg colors.


The unaltered cover has been published a few times, but for those of you who missed it the copy was changed from the original "See Iron-Man face-to-face with Cleopatra" to "See Iron-Man dare to rescue Cleopatra" and the queen of the niles expression was modified from concerned to smiling gleefully. From Creepy Worlds # 68.   




A small reproduction of the cover also appeared on Marvel Collectors' Item Classics # 7, February 1967. Note the spelling of the word Pharaoh was finally corrected. I suspect Roy Thomas, then editorial assistant wrote the cover copy and noticed the error.    




The cover to Astonishing # 48, April 1956. This was assumed to be drawn by Carl Burgos, but take a look at the original stat:


 ..particularly the face, then look at the figure, backgrounds, etc. It's actually the work of Bill Everett, who drew some of the moodiest covers for Atlas in the 1950's (this is one of his tamer efforts, even for a Code approved issue). Burgos was often identified as the cover artist because he redrew the man's face on the Astonishing cover. From Creepy Worlds # 90.   



      Another Astonishing cover (#44, December 1955, to be exact) Carl Burgos cover art.


  ...and the unaltered version from Creepy Worlds # 141. The hands pushing the man and woman were eliminated from the Astonishing cover. MUCH less frightening, don't you think??   


Tales To Astonish # 28, February 1962. Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Artie Simek letters; Stan Goldberg colors.  


Minimal changes appeared from the original stat to the published cover. The background elements were deleted in order to focus on the scientist transforming into an ape and facial hair was added to the doc to make him look closer to the way he was drawn inside, with beard and goatee. Although Kirby drew both cover and interior story, covers were usually drawn last and Kirby invariably forgot what the character looked like. From Creepy Worlds # 157.    

And just to be thorough, the unaltered cover also showed up on Fear # 5, November 1971, with new lettering by Morrie Kuramoto:





And we close out with another Bill Everett stunner from Journey into Unknown Worlds # 53, January 1957. 


As seen when published in Secrets of the Unknown # 175, the faces of the man and woman were altered and the bird creature looked much more sinister in the original version, changes likely incurred due to demands of the Comics Code Authority. 

Are there more unaltered Alan Class covers? Future blog posts may answer that question...  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Early Days of Fandom:Jeddak

Jeddak was a fanzine produced in the early 1960's, a response to the renewed popularity of costumed heroes in comic books. Inspired by G. B. Love's fanzine Rockets Blast, Paul Moslander decided to put together a fanzine of his own. Like many of his brethren, Moslander was captivated by the recent Marvel line of heroes with their fresh outlook and dynamic energy. Marvel, however, was not their sole concern; Jeddak's diverse content included articles and news on the comic's industry, original prose stories and in particular, fantasy and science fiction, as per its title (Jeddak originated from a word invented by Edgar Rice Burrough's in his John Carter of Mars books, meaning "Emperor" in Martian language). 


                                           
       Jeddak II, September 1963 spotlights Timely's top heroes. Dan Crowe cover art.

From info derived in this issues editorial Jeddak premiered in July 1963 (I don't have the first issue) with Paul Moslander and Michael Friedrich collaborating on the first two issues. In those pre-internet days Friedrich was unable to work closely with Moslander due to their distance from each other, so from the third issue onward Moslander became the sole editor/publisher, writing numerous articles and editorials, with assistance from his father, Ralph Moslander, who produced much of the artwork. Friedrich would go on to write for Marvel and DC, publish Star*Reach and become an agent for comic artists. 

Moslander had letters published in early Marvel Comics, including Amazing Spider-Man # 4, September 1963, complete with an "Editor of Jeddak" title:


   

The Marvel heroes of the 1940's Timely era were the cover feature in Jeddak II. While many fans were interested in the new or revised Marvel and DC characters, a great many were equally intrigued by the original heroes of over two decades past. The inside front cover explained that the issue was a tribute to the Timely/Atlas/Marvel heroes and includes a capsule history of the period from the late 1930's to its revival in the 1950's and into its present 1960's incarnation. To many fans this was unexplored territory and provided a larger history of the Marvel line.


  In the "news and notices" section two new titles were celebrated, the Avengers and X-Men. The first FF Annual was a big hit with fans (discussed recently on this very blog), while Dr. Strange, the "Tales of Asgard" back-up feature in Journey into Mystery and Steve Ditko's work on Iron-Man (in Tales of Suspense) is praised. Below are a few Marvel Comics that were on newsstands when Jeddak II was published:


    
Amazing Spider-Man # 7, Dec 1963, Steve Ditko cover art. Spider-Man was already a favorite with fans.


                          
                    Avengers # 2; November 1963, Jack Kirby pencils; Sol Brodsky inks




 X-Men # 2: November 1963; Jack Kirby pencils; Paul Reinman inks. Don't let the dates fool you - both Avengers # 2 and X-Men # 2 appeared on stands in September. Moslander would have only seen their first issues when Jeddak II was published.


  
 Fantastic Four # 21, December 1963. Jack Kirby pencils; Paul Reinman inks. Don't forget this issue; it'll come up again soon....

There is also talk of DC and Gold Key output. Although Marvel was getting the lion's share of attention, many fans were interested in what the other comic book lines were putting out, particularly in the adventure/heroic genres.



Another topic that stirred up fans was the Comics Code Authority, and both the pros and cons of it's worth were debated. On this page administrator John Goldwater is quoted as being upset over companies such as Gold Key that did not carry the code seal. 


The letters section was the main source of interaction between Moslander and fans, many of whom produced their own fanzines, offering a lively mixture of intelligent discussions and youthful enthusiasm. Fanzine pioneer Jerry Bails, originator of Alter Ego, sends his compliments to the editor and John McGeehan is represented (John and brother Tom, were active members of fandom, buying multiple copies of every fanzine, collecting data and rating each one). McGeehan also contributed to Jeddak, writing articles on authors such as Maurice B. Gardner and The Comics Code.     


Margaret Gemignani was a prolific fanzine writer and publisher (Mask and Cape). In this issue she presents a listing of Timely's 1940's heroes and writes a five page history of the Sub-Mariner in the "Comic Mirror" section of the fanzine.


In those long ago days when access to a Xerox machine was limited, artwork and covers were often "recreated" by fan artists. Here Paul's dad, Ralph Moslander, does a fine job channeling Syd Shores for his version of All Winners # 21. These images and characters were used with the permission and approval of Marvel, and Moslander personally thanks Stan Lee, who was very friendly with fandom. 

Along with articles on Marvel, Jeddak included an essay on Science Fiction author A. E. Van Vogt and two fan fiction pieces. Moslander produced an imaginative fanzine together with a small group of talented and energetic young people.      


The FF and Spider-Man take center stage on the cover to Jeddak III (November 1963), with images (by Ralph Moslander?) derived from Kirby and Ditko figures.



Early on Marvel was recognized by fans as something special, and Moslander points out what made them stand out from the crowd. While many have echoed his thoughts over the decades in essays, articles and interviews, there is a certain freshness in seeing this expressed while Marvel was in its infancy.  


The "Notes and Notices" section heralds the upcoming return of Captain America after a decade absence; Hawkman's new feature in Mystery in Space and changes in the Justice League of America. Moslander predicts the Angel will break out and become a solo star, extols the "brilliance" of Giant-Man (who am I to criticize? I love Ant-Man!), and praises Gold Key's Doctor Solar, although noting its sales are lacking with cancellation imminent. Interestingly, the publication schedule between issues 6 and 7 went from every three months to every four months, and then reverted back to a quarterly schedule with its 8th issue. Doctor Solar's sales apparently picked up and the title continued uninterrupted until 1969.    


Doctor Solar # 6 (November 1963) would have been out when Jeddak III was published. Cover painting by the great George Wilson. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database.

   
Moslander's second editorial in this issue praises Lee, Kirby and Marvel for the recently published Fantastic Four # 21. Moslander explains how, unlike most comic companies, Marvel uses Communists as villains, and in this story they deal with mindless, fanatical hatred. In four months Lee and Kirby would go further and tackle racism (Sgt. Fury # 6, March 1964). Lee and company were clearly sending a message about equality, one they would follow up on in the years ahead. Moslander's editorial points to an intelligent teenager who was not just immersed in the world of fantasy; he was concerned about the problems and issues surrounding him in a turbulent decade. While many producers of fanzines were teenagers (Moslander was around 14 when he started Jeddak), they often showed a level of depth and insight beyond their years.

 
               
Marvel's own Corresponding Secretary, Flo Steinberg, sends a letter in. Flo often replied directly to fanzines sent to Stan Lee, although Lee also read fanzines and was genuinely interested in what they had to say.



Moslander's four page article "The Marvel Comics Groups" concentrates on the team books (FF, Avengers, X-Men and Sgt. Fury) three of which were relatively new. While all the strips were by Lee and Kirby,  Moslander expressly points out their distinctions instead of their similarities.

Other highlights in issue III include articles on the Comics Code by Rick Weingroff and Bill Gregory and a history of the original Human Torch by Margaret Gemignani.

  
The next issue in my collection is Jeddak V (May 1964), with cover art by John Chambers, featuring a mix of Marvel and DC heroes. 


On his opening page Moslander asks the question "Can comic book heroes remain original?"  Moslander doesn't follow contemporary comics, but feels most of the new ideas in mainstream comics dissipated after Watchman.  



"Notes and Notices" mentions Jeddak's expansion in page count and nickel raise to 40 cents (a lot of money for fans in those days: 40 cents paid for 3 comics and 3 Bazooka Joe bubble gums! At the time they cost a penny each!) plus news on science fiction writer Robert Heinlein; The Return of the Shadow book by Walter Gibson and discussion on DC, Gold Key and Radio Comics, including the "new look" Batman, returning to crime oriented fare under editor Julie Schwartz after years of alien menaces and giant gorillas.  



It would be a few months before the announced changes occurred in Batman and Detective Comics, but many fans looked forward to a new look after years of science fiction, monsters, time travel and giant apes (which have a goofy charm of their own, if I may be so bold). Batman # 163, December 1963, Cover art by Sheldon Moldoff. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database (hey, I don't own EVERY comic!) 


Letters discuss the merits of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko's art; the idea of teaming Sgt. Fury with Captain America (fans had to wait five months for that to occur, in the pages of Sgt. Fury # 13, but Stan Lee was probably listening to this and similar requests), hopes of  Cap getting his own comic and the recent Shadow paperback, and that's only one page of a five page LP!


Fans got their wish ("in answer to the greatest reader demand in Marvel's history!" blared Stan Lee's cover copy, and probably not without a grain of truth) as Lee and Kirby teamed Captain America and Bucky with Sgt. Fury and the Howlers. This was Kirby's last interior story (although his presence dominated the majority of covers up to issue #25) and he went out with a blast! Dick Ayers inks; Sgt. Fury # 13, December 1964.   

    
    


The articles on the Fly and Spider-Man are interesting in light of later revelations about Kirby's unpublished Spider-Man being similar to his and Simon's Fly.* Moslander points out the differences between the Simon-Kirby and Lee-Ditko heroes, but astute fans would almost certainly have noticed similarities if Lee-Kirby's original Spider-Man was produced. How long would it have been before the litigious publishers of Archie also took notice? It's possible that a Lee-Kirby Spider-Man would have survived as long as Fox's Wonder Man. Instead, we got the Lee-Ditko Spider-Man. In my estimation that worked out OK.

Other features in Jeddak V include an article on Fu Manchu author Sax Rohmer by Richard Best, prose stories and the inevitable article on the notorious Comics Code!


And finally we come to the last issue of Jeddak, # VII, July 1965 with Cap, Subby and Daredevil featured. Cover art by John Chambers. 

     

"Notes and Notices" mentions a six month gap between issues, not a good sign in terms of publication, and the price is again raised another nickel to 45 cents. Topics include Charlton's employment of fan writers and Roy Thomas' first assignment for that company (more of upcoming); praise for DC's "Enemy Ace"; ACG and Archie's heroes, and a lukewarm review of SHIELD.


Created by Robert Kanigher and visualized by Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace was an offbeat series and a fan favorite. Showcase # 57, August 1965.  Image from the Grand Comic Book Database (and if I mention them one more time I'm gonna charge them!)


While this letter was printed in an earlier blog post on the Comic Reader, I thought it rated a second look for those who missed it. Pat Masulli was the first comics editor to directly go to fanzines and procure talent. Soon many fanzine writers and artists would find work in the comics industry, changing the tone and tenure of comics. 

         

And we close out with an article by editor Moslander on the 1964 World Science Fiction Convention and author Harlan Ellison's horror stories about writing or adapting stories for Television. Moslander does not quote Ellison verbatim, but apparently took notes during his talk and adds his own asides. It remains a fascinating examination of the story development process from treatment to finished product.  

Jeddak continued to explore a variety of material; Ian Fleming's OO7; spoofs of golden age comics; prose stories and a printing the Comics Code Authority's rules and standards, (something not often seen in that era). Expanding the page count may have been a disadvantage, giving Jeddak an unfocused feeling, but after the seventh issue Moslander became busy with school and discontinued Jeddak, although he still followed comics for many years. While his involvement with comic fandom waned, his passion for science fiction fandom - which comic fandom was a offshoot of - remains strong to this day. Speaking to him in the present one gets a clear sense of the teenager whose enthusiasm and insight brought a small press publication to life (the print run was in the low 100's). Moslander's fanzine showcases a group of young, passionate fans writing, drawing and putting thought into a product. It's a testament to his talent that Jeddak is worth looking back on a half-century later.        

Special thanks to Paul Moslander for taking the time to talk to me about his work all those years ago. I'm impressed by his keen insight and thoughtful manner. Thanks also to Aaron Caplan for helping me get in contact with Paul.


* "Amazing Adult Fantasy was born and reached #14 when Stan said a new Marvel hero would be introduced in #15. He would be called Spider-Man. Jack would do the penciling and I was to ink the character...Stan said Spider-Man would be teenager with a magic ring which could transform him into an adult hero - Spider-Man. I said it sounded like the Fly..later, at some point I was given the job of drawing Spider-Man." Steve Ditko, An Insider's Part of Comics History Jack Kirby's Spider-Man, Robin Snyder's History of Comics, Vol 1, number 5, May 1990.