Sunday, May 13, 2012

Avengers # 11 Cover Mystery

A Few weeks back I looked at some of the interior corrections on The Avengers by Jack Kirby. This time around I thought it would be interesting to examine the cover to The Avengers # 11, which appears to have a number of artistic hands involved in its creation.

Avengers # 11 cover, Dec 1964

This cover has been a puzzle to me for many years. I have no doubt that the Thor, Iron-Man and Cap figures are pencilled  by Jack Kirby and inked by Chic Stone, the usual cover team in this period. Kirby's figure work and poses are evident, as is Stone's bold inking. Giant-Man, Spider-Man and possibly the Wasp are another matter.


Close-up of Giant-Man figure, by Ditko & Stone?

Examining the Giant-Man figure and the way the body is positioned, I suspect Steve Ditko drew the figure, possibly replacing a Giant-Man drawing by Kirby that Stan Lee didn't like. Minor alterations took place before the cover was published, as can be seen here.

Ad for Avengers # 11, as seen in Fantastic Four # 34

There was a slight alteration to Giant-Man's hand, facing up in the ad and straight in the published cover. The hand in the ad look's very much like a Ditko pose. The Wasp figure is very small, but her pose makes me suspect that Ditko also corrected/redrew her as well.

Close-up of Spider-Man figure. Ditko and Stone?

We now come to the most interesting figure on the cover, Spider-Man. There are a number of areas that are worth pointing out. This is clearly not a Kirby illustration, although he may have pencilled an initial Spider-Man figure which was either discarded or worked over. Kirby never, ever drew Spidey's mask and eyelets as accurately as is seen here (most artists that drew Spider-Man in this period, including Don Heck and Dick Ayers, had trouble following Ditko's web-lines, mask,  and costume design) . Kirby rarely remembered to draw the spider in the chest area or the webbing on the fingers or gloves correctly. There are some areas that are in error, though. The belt doesn't seem to be connected to the upper part of the costume, a mistake Kirby often made. Still, the rest of the costume is rendered correctly, including the web lines on the costume. 

My theory is that Kirby originally drew a Spider-Man figure that Stan was unhappy with and asked Steve to revise or redraw the figure, which was finished by Chic Stone. It is possible that Ditko followed Kirby's original design, ie positioned him in the same manner, but judging by the lack of definition and uninked spider and eyelets, Ditko may have loosely pencilled/outlined the Spider-Man figure, with Chic Stone completing the inking. Having observed some of Ditko's pencils in this period, it is evident that Ditko filled in a lot of the blacks in the inking process. I can see Stone's sharp line on Spidey's left leg and boot. It would also account for any mistakes that occured, as Stone was not familiar with inking Spider-Man.     

As was often the case, Stan Lee tinkered with covers up to the last minute, making changes both big and small. Sol Brodsky and Marie Severin did correction work (and I'm not certain if Giant-Man's face wasn't tinkered with by someone other than Ditko) but when folks like Kirby or Ditko stepped into the office, it was not unusual to have them fix up art.  Aside from the slight alteration on Giant-Man seen in the FF ad, I've never seen any stats of this cover that are different that the published cover. It would certainly be interesting to see Kirby's unaltered cover, but like Amazing Spider-Man # 10, which has a Kirby Spider-Man mixed with Ditko figures, the original covers may forever remain a mystery.        


  1. I've always been curious about this cover, also but Giant-Man has long looked to me like he has a Dick Ayers face.

    Spidey throws me. It doesn't look "right" enough to me to be Ditko but you can definitely tell Chic is in there. Perhaps Chic was asked to redraw Kirby's figure during the inking process and got it better but not perfect?

    Was always my least favorite of the first 16 issues of THE AVENGERS, too, when it should have been big.

  2. That redrawn Giant-Man hand has a hint of Kirby about it. Kirby correcting Ditko's correction of Kirby perhaps? It seems the hand was altered to allow for the lettering.

  3. Steven,

    I doubt Dick Ayers did any correction work on Giant-Man's face as he was rarely in the office and sent most of his work in by mail. Looking at it again it may be Chic Stone who fixed up the face in the inking process.

    It is possible someone was copying Ditko, but I've found no poses similar enough to the one on this cover, and no one seems to have been able to copy Ditko closely enough. If Ditko only did a layout or rough pencils then the figure is not far removed from the pencilled work by Ditko that was inked by other hands in the 1970s and 1980s.


    Anything is possible, but I suspect another, um, hand, is involved in that hand (I'd better get to sleep before I really lose it!)

  4. The Spidey figure, with the exception of the raised leg, looks like all Kirby. Just look at the hands! Kirby hands! Not Ditko hands. How could Ditko have resisted redrawing Spidey's web-shooting hand? I don't think Ditko touched this cover, but believe Chic Stone was adjusting it, and attempted to make it more Ditko-y. That just my two (Spidey) cents!

  5. Hi jim-
    Thanks for joining in. I've studied that spidey figure over and over but can't see "any" Kirby in the figure. There is certainly a possibility that Stone copied a Ditko figure but i'm not convined that DItko didn't layout or rough pencil the figure of Spidey-especially since evidence suggests he pencillwd Giant-Man.!

  6. Oh, heck! I'd added the RSS feed for your blog back when you started it up, but it looks like that changed some time back and I've missed a bunch of blog posts.

    Guess I've got some reading to do! :)

  7. I thought it was settled that Bob Powell did the Giant-Man figure since he had the strip in Astonish at the time, but maybe not. What's interesting about discussions of this particular cover, is the Why. Why the changes in Giant-Man? Here's my (admittedly-uninformed) theory: This is the issue which omits Iron Man (He's being punished or off on a personal mission or something) No doubt Kirby, who was not associated with the strip at this time, got his signals crossed and left out Giant-Man (and the Wasp) instead. Furthermore, almost certainly, the Spider-man figure was originally in the web with the other figures and all four were much larger. Lee caught the mistake and fixed it: Push the figures back, insert GM & Wasp, redo Spidey. Incidentally, those are definitely Stone inks on Spiderman.

  8. Split2nd,

    A plausible theory. There was always a reason for cover alterations, but not seeing the original we can only speculate. Stan wanted covers to be clear and characters to be recognizable. He would often tinker with backgrounds, simplifying or eliminating them, and altering the figures, making them more prominent at times. There were also times that Publisher Martin Goodman demanded changes, so there may be any number of reasons for alterations.

    Also, even at this early period, Spider-Man was prettty popular, so he may have been rearanged to be more prominent.

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