Saturday, January 28, 2012

Journey Into Minutiae - Undocumented Ditko Thor

Every once in a while its nice to write something deserving of the "Minutiae" title, and this post achieves that. A few months back my brother John, who often sends me emails when there is a question of identifying art, forwarded me something that was being advertised on Heritage Auctions. It was page 13 of Journey into Mystery # 88, an early Thor story, drawn by Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers. It's always a treat to look at original art pages, especially (for me) studying the border notes by Kirby and others, as well as Stan's production notes to Sol Brodsky. This page was particularly intriguing because it includes a panel that was changed before publication.

Original art to Journey into Mystery # 88, Jan 1963, Kirby pencils;Ayers inks

Close-up of Thor panel by Kirby

There have been numerous instances where Stan requested art corrections or alterations, so that was no big surprise. I put the page away and intended to compare it to the original, to see why it was altered and what Kirby redrew. I never got around to comparing the page, having completely forgotten about it, but the other day I found it mixed in with other papers and decided to check out the original comic. That's when I was in for a surprise.

When I took a close look at the panel I realized the alteration was not by Kirby, or production man Sol Brodsky, but Steve Ditko! The distinct inking on Thor's arms and the depiction of earth was a clear giveaway.

Published panel by Steve Ditko. Note the linework on Thor's arms and the Earth

After comparing the printed panel to the replacement, it was obvious that Stan wanted it to be clear that Thor was flying away from earth. The simple reason Stan didn't have Kirby make the change was probably because Ditko happened to be in the office when it was needed. This was not the first time that Ditko fixed a Kirby panel; he did the same in FF # 20, which was discovered, I believe, by Nigel Kitching, who has pointed out many corrections by Ditko and Kirby in this early period to me many years ago.

Page 17, panel 3 of Fantastic Four # 20, Nov 1963

It's also interesting to note that Ditko inked the cover, which he may have picked up when he made the correction.

Journey into Mystery # 88, Kirby pencils; Ditko inks
It's always a thrill to discover - and share - the little surprises that continue to crop up. It's part of the adventure of investigating the ongoing history of comics.




Lefisc said...

It's undocumented? Does that mean it has to be deported to Asgard? Is everything now political?

(Nick, I am having serious problems logging on. This is my third attempt)

Kid said...

Fascinating. Keep up the great posts.

Kid said...

Meant to say, that 'Kirby' panel looks like it has previously been 'tampered' with. Look at the position of the 'dots' on the upper half of Thor's costume. Also, his cape is clearly spread out behind him, but an extra bit seems to have been added to the side of his body. I suspect that Thor's lower body and legs may have been obscured by the netted Loki and Stan had it changed, but was dissatisfied with the result - hence the Ditko patch.

Nick Caputo said...


It was Loki who was deported to Asgard (although I think Odin just deported him back to Earth).


It does look like there may have been some alterations on Kirby's original panel.

Booksteve said...

My first guess would have been Don Heck, actually, but for that thickening line on the cape which does make me think Ditko. Good catch, sir!

Nigel Kitching said...

Hey Nick, I don't remember if it was me who spotted that Ditko correction in FF #20. But I do recall the the fun I had discussing this trivia with you all those years ago.

Nick Caputo said...

Hey Nigel!

Nice to hear from you after such a long time. I hope you join in with your expert eye. I may well do a blog on some of the Avenger's issues that you and I went through whith Kirby corrections sometime in the future.

Do you have a Blog of your own?

Nigel Kitching said...

Hi Nick, I don't actually - I'm barely involved with the comic fan thing nowadays. I also think my expert eye may have dulled a little as it is so long since I really looked at this kind of thing. I still find it endlessly fascinating though.

Nick Caputo said...

I may do a post on some of the identifications you and I made back in the "old days", such as the Avengers corrections by Kirby, with your permission. I think it would make for a fascinating post.

Nigel Kitching said...

Happy for you to do that Nick.

The thing that I remember from that (which I thought was kind of interesting) was how we were each of us stronger on certain artists than others. I was good on Chick Stone but had (have) a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Sol Brodsky.

Nigel Kitching said...

Hey Nick, I've been looking at that Thor correction again and I think what we have here is a Kirby correction inked by Ditko.

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Nigel,

Looking at it again it is a possibility, but I think its Steve basing his figure of Jack's original. Also, would Stan go through the trouble of having Jack pencil and Ditko ink a one-panel correction?

Teddy I @ Pencil Ink said...

Thanks for sharing all this.

Nick Caputo said...


Glad you enjoyed it. I always enjoy your highly interesting site.