Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rejected Covers

Since this Blog IS called Marvel Mysteries and Comics Minutiae, I thought it would be a good idea to probe into an area of particular interest to me, and hopefully of interest to a few of you as well. I've always been interested in the process of comics; growing up I was fascinated when my brother John bought a reprint comic such as Marvel Tales or Marvel Collector's Item Classics. When  he also had the original publication around, I would compare the two side by side, often noticing new coloring on the reprints. Occasionally there were alterations in art; editing of footnotes and new copy at the end of the stories. Reprinted covers were ofter recolored, figures sometimes repositioned and copy added or changed (and one day soon I'll do a post on reprint covers that used the original stats before they were changed for publication). But this post will focus on rejected covers, showcasing a few comparisons with my observations.

To get a better understanding on what the criteria was for rejecting a cover, I went to two sources that were closely involved. Stan Lee had this to say:

"I hardly ever rejected a cover because of the quality of the artwork.  Our artists were the best!  It was only subject matter and interpretation that I changed. 
I might have said: "Put the hero more in the foreground" or "Make the villain bigger"" or "Don't show the new villain's face. Let the reader guess." or "Make the scene more of a long shot."  etc.   Stuff like that.
Don't really recall any specific covers I turned down. My taste in covers was pretty much the same as Martin Goodman's.  After the first few years he left me on my own in that regard."
I also queried Roy Thomas, who kindly answered:
"I remember more about Martin Goodman's rejection of covers than Stan's... after all, if he rejected a penciled cover, it was more likely to be in the privacy of his own office, and I might never hear of it.  I see rejected covers that clearly were done during my early days at Marvel, and I usually don't recall anything about them, because Stan didn't generally discuss them with me. 

If Stan wanted to reject a cover, I doubt if I could have talked him out of it.  I do recall him being unhappy at seeing the bottom of Captain America's boot (the sole) on the cover of GIANT-SIZE INVADERS, and he wanted to get the foot redrawn so we'd see the top of it.  That would've made him look like he was putting his best toe forward, so I managed to talk him out of that... but he never liked seeing the bottoms of hero's shoes on covers.  I've mentioned I think that's why he rejected one CAPTAIN AMERICA cover by either Kirby or Romita that's floating around... although I don't specifically remember that cover otherwise.

As editor-in-chief, I had pretty much control over the covers, although Stan as publisher could overrule me as Goodman had him... and perhaps he did, once or twice, but nothing I particularly recall."
And now, on to a few covers:
The rejected cover to Amazing Spider-Man # 35, as published in Italy
The published cover to Amazing Spider-Man # 35
A side by side comparison clearly shows that Ditko's Spider-Man figure was redrawn by Jack Kirby, with inking likely by Sol Brodsky. This cover came up in a phone conversation I had with John Romita some years ago. He recalled he was in the office when Kirby was fixing the cover, and Kirby was joking that he always had to fix Ditko's butts. It's obvious that either Stan or Martin Goodman did not think Spidey's rear facing the viewer was attractive, and Stan had Jack make the change, likely because he was in the office. While the original does have a charm, as S-M is descending from above,  the replacement figure is also dramatic, as he races towards a confrontation.
Kirby's covers were also rejected from time to time, and here is an interesting example:
Rejected cover to Thor # 167; Jack Kirby pencils; Vince Colletta inks

Published cover to Thor # 167 by John Romita
The changes here are interesting and clearly illustrate Lee's points. Kirby's version is busier, although the main idea of Thor's ghostly figure looking on helplessly as his alter ego is threatened by Loki appears in both versions. That scene is much smaller in Kirby's version, as we also witness the inside of a hospital where doctors are administrating to one of Thor's comrades. I like the look of urgency on Thor's face on Kirby's unpublished cover, but realize Romita's figures taking center stage is more dramatic in the published version and a perfect example of Lee's intentions for a successful cover:

"Put the hero more in the foreground..Make the villain bigger!" 

As a matter of expediency Lee often had John Romita redo covers since he worked in the office and deadlines loomed.
I intend to compare a few more examples soon, so stay tuned. 


Booksteve said...

I love this kind of stuff!

One that always fascinated me was the MARVEL COLLECTOR'S ITEM CLASSICS reprint of FF 27 guest-starring Dr. Strange and Namor. It uses the exact same layout as the original Kirby/Chic Stone cover and yet it's a completely new, modernized version with a fairly wimpy looking Dr Strange. The new art is Kirby/John Verpoorten. I've often wondered why they didn't simply use the original and instead paid Jack to do a new version exactly like it. Or did they? Perhaps all they had was Jack's penciled cover and someone had Jumbo John V ink it with the various modernizations to the characters?

Nick Caputo said...


What I think happened was that they couldn't find a good stat of the original cover and had Kirby produce a new one instead. I think that happened a few times in that period.

Kid said...

Although one can see Kirby's style in that Spider-Man cover, I think other hands might also have had input. It's not really Jack's musculature in the figure. (And doesn't his right foot look like a left? That IS something that JK often did.)

As for the Thor cover, I can see why Stan had it redone. The figures within the room aren't in the right place in relation to the shape of the building (if you see what I mean), nor the right size in relation to the figures on the roof.

Nick Caputo said...


I doubt other hands were involved in the Spidey redo. Kirby was basically following what was already there, and Sol Brodsky may have touched up a few areas in the inking stage.

Kid said...

That being so, Sol would be the 'other hands' to which I alluded. There's just something about the figure which isn't 'pure' Kirby. Also, as Stan often had others redraw, paste over, or rework Jack's Spidey figures, he may well have felt that JK's art needed 'refining' in some way.

Nick Caputo said...

Certainly true. Jack had a hard time getting Spidey's costume right, especially the spider in the back (which he didn't have to draw here) but witness how the gloves are drawn differently than normal.

HemlockMan said...

From everything that I've read and been told, Stan Lee had a real "thing"
against butt-shots. My impression from reading about this anti-fetish of his was
that Ditko was obviously aware of it, he obviously did not like Stan
(never-created-anything) Lee and went out of his way sometimes to leave Lee with
the job of having to "fix" Ditko's butt-shots.

As this cover was definitely done after Ditko had made the decision to leave
Marvel, my suspicion is that he knew the cover that he delivered would cause
either angst on the parts of Lee/Goodman (a single force if ever there was one),
or that they'd have just enough time to have it "fixed" by someone in the

Either way, Ditko got his satisfaction.

As for the Kirby cover...Romita's version definitely is the weaker. However, at this point in his career, Kirby was so busy no other comic artist on Earth could keep up with him. I doubt he batted an eye over it.

Kid said...

I think Romita's cover is clearer - Kirby's is far too busy and cluttered, to say nothing of the points I mentioned earlier. Also, knowing how fussy Ditko was about having his artwork altered, I doubt he'd deliberately turn in a job he knew would require alteration. His way of dealing with Stan was to quit Marvel - I reckon he was far too principled to indulge in cheap shots like drawing butts just to annoy his editor.

Nick Caputo said...

Hemlock Man,

I agree with Kid, Ditko was a professional artist, and I highly doubt he would be petty enough to get even with Stan. As editor Stan had say in how the covers looked, and Martin Goodman had final say.

Ditko may even had made the change himself if requested, IF he felt it made sense; if not he would have refused and let someone else make the change. From everything I've read Ditko is a very reasoned man.

As mentioned earlier, I want this blog to be a place for discussion and an exchange of ideas, NOT a place to take pot shots at Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, or any other creator. We can all have differences of opinion, but I've seen too many sites where everything quickly explodes into a battleground. There are plenty of other places where that is allowed or actively encouraged - not here.

Nick Caputo said...

One other point - ditko drew 2 more covers for Amazing Spider-Man before he left (# 36-37), they are both quite good and nothing "subversive" appears on them. Ditko did not draw the cover to ASM # 38, very likely because covers were produced last and he already had assignments elsewhere (this also happened with Wally Wood's last DD cover).

Mr. Preece said...

In both cases, the replacement cover is much clearer, meaning the information gets to the customer faster. A cover should excite, not confuse, a buyer. You want them 'grabbed,' pulled into the story upon the first look. Any doubts can lead to a lost sale.

Upon first glance, I'm not sure what Spidey's doing. Is he hanging there motionless (to gain surprise) or is he swinging in or what? (Is that his chin hanging down from his groin or his privates...?) I have to stop and figure that out. With Thor, I go straight to his face which isn't all that interesting. I have to sort out what Loki's doing on the roof and, from the thumbnail on this blog, I have no idea what's going on inside the office. And it's a weird looking office the way it juts up a bit from the rest of the roof. Before I can quite figure it all out I'm already looking at other covers on the comic rack--"Oh, look, a new Flash!"