Friday, July 18, 2008


ITEM! Holy Skrull-Cow! Where’s Miss Marble when yah need her? Yours Truly just discovered that the Mighty Marvel Original Art/Recreated Art Mystery runs a lot deeper than most of us probably suspected. Apparently my amazingly monolithic alma mater has been hiring artists to “recreate” covers, interior pages, and in some cases, entire issues of Marvel’s Silver Age classics for the Marvel Masterworks and Omnibus reprint books. And by recreate I mean trace. And by trace I mean forge. It seems that they’re doing this whenever stats or film of the original issues turns up missing. Let’s go over that again so it has chance to really sink in. Rather than scanning original print copies of the missing pages or books and print that (as was done in GTI Corp’s dramatic-but-now-nearly-departed DVD collections), they’ve elected to go to special recreation artists that would never otherwise be hired to draw a Marvel comic and have them make fastidious forgeries of classic Kirby and Ditko art. And if yah don’t believe the Smilin’ One, then see 20th Century Danny Boy’s excellent examination of this egregious exercise in ersatz engraving.

Far be it from your Uncle Stanley to cast the first stick at anyone for faking something, but there should at the very least be full disclosure in these books so that readers know exactly when and where they’re not really getting the genuine article. Here’s Danny Boy’s short list of known recreated art in these high-end reprints. Go read that and then come back here for more!

Back? Good! It’s not like we didn’t face this same problem back in my day. An entire issue of The Amazing Spider-Man went missing from our files way back in the late 60s — Spidey #29 to be exact. Never reprinted until Marvel Tales #168 (Oct. 1984), the Marvel production department had to reshoot the entire ish from a print copy and then clean up the resulting stats via knife, white-out and some re-lettering. But Marvel did two things back in’84 that kept it all on the up-an-up: 1.) They told readers what they had done to restore the Ditko art, and 2.) They restored the Ditko art from stats, they didn’t redraw it. That’s at least two ethical lines that have been crossed in the current reprints. Full disclosure, disclaimers and discourse is the way to go with these Masterworks and Omnibus reprints that contain recreated artwork. You hear that, Joltin’ Joe Quesada? Is it real or is it Memorex? True Believers want to know! 

P.S. Can you imagine the poor sap that gets sorely saddled someday with recreating Vince Colletta’s inks on classic issues of The Mighty Thor? Will Marvel supply the artist with his own whisk broom to ink with, or will he they have to buy their own? Yeesh! I just gave myself cold chills with that one, pilgrims. Now if someone wants to hire Mike Royer to re-ink Jack’s entire Thor run from his pencils stats, I’m sure that’s one recreation we could all get behind! Your Fearless Leader (Emeritus) hath spoken!



Chris Tolworthy said...

I think this brings up a more serious point. IMO the Masterworks are ENTIRELY new, EVEN WHEN reprinting the original art. This is because the art was designed for a certain size and paper quality. The harsh lines, smooth (often shiny) paper, intense (often subtly changing) colors change the art. I think it was Steranko who warned against the Visionaries reprints of his stuff. (I have his Visionaries stuff, and I've see his stuff on actual newsprint, and newsprint is better). The artists would NEVER have drawn like that if they knew it was going to be reproduced in this giant shiny way. It's like playing 1970s console games on 2008 hardware, without the original controls. Or showing a YouTube video on an IMAX cinema. It changes the original.

Stan the Man said...

You bring up some fine points to add to the debate, Chris. Having seen a lot of this art in it's original kid-finish bristol board state, I can tell yah that it's always breathtaking when compared to the printed versions, be it 1960s newsprint or later digital methods and slick paper.That said, we definitely did our best to ink and letter the books with an eye towards the verities of the printing processes of the day.

Can you imagine what this debate will be like in another 40 years time? We'll be arguing over which method of 3D holography best captures the original artist's 2D intent! See yah back here in 2048 for that discussion, Chris!


Jonathan Nolan said...

It just seems a disappointing period to the sentence that was the House of Ideas.

word verification: "kdqwtdwy"- the sound made by a long time but retired Spidey fan when you tell him what they did to his favorite character over the last few years.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I have no problem with them doing this as long as they are upfront and admit it. Representing something that isn't the original is wrong. Saying it is a recreation because of missing original materials, OK. But recreating the original material from Photoshop methods makes more sense, I'll agree. I also like the idea of different artists inking the originals in their own style just to see what happens. Not everyone's favorite Kirby inker, Syd Shores, is my ultimate choice. Wish he had a chance at Kirby's later stuff. I was never a fan of Royer's inks.