Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Splash Pages in Marvel Reprints

In the 1970's Marvel published a great many reprint comics, and along with the superhero material that appeared in Marvel Tales, Marvel Super-Heroes and Marvel's Greatest Comics, they also reprinted a huge amount of genre material: war, western, horror, monster, jungle, romance and humor. While I've discussed new material that appeared, such as pin-ups or original stats of covers, I've also discovered a few examples of new splash pages that replaced the originals.

While this may look like a Strange Tales cover, it's actually the splash page with new lettering by Morrie Kuramoto. Monsters on the Prowl # 22, April 1973.  
The splash page for "The Thing Runs Amok". A number of alterations differ in the reprinted cover image. The title is changed to "Monster "so as not to have any tykes confused by Marvel's curmudgeonly member of the Fantastic Four who bears the same name. The reprinted cover also had the monsters right arm and hand redrawn, and added cover copy, word balloons and buildings in the background. The monsters eyes are also eliminated, giving him empty "Little Orphan Annie" sockets instead. Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks.  

When it was decided to reprint the original cover to Strange Tales #93, "When The Thing Runs Amok" some changes were made. Monsters were popular sellers at Marvel in this period, so it made sense to re-publish many pre-hero stories.  The original covers were often used, but artists such as Gil Kane and Jim Starlin were also commissioned to provide new artwork. In the case of the above story there was no original cover to accompany it, since the cover to Strange Tales # 93 broke tradition and skipped using a scene from the lead story, instead focusing on a Lee-Ditko back-up story.

Cover to Strange Tales # 93, Feb 1962 representing the Lee-Ditko back-up story. Kirby pencils; Ditko inks, Artie Simek letters; Stan Goldberg colors.

Interestingly, "The Wax People" was also reprinted in Monsters on the Prowl # 22, so it COULD have been used as a cover image. However, the reasoning seemed to be that monsters sold better than fantasy, and since the comic was titled MONSTERS  on the Prowl, - a monster - instead of menacing wax figures was settled on.

   The decision to use the splash page as the cover image led to another dilemma - the need to replace the old splash with a new one.

The new splash page artwork is penciled by Rich Buckler (thanks to Steven Thompson for the conformation) with inking likely by Mike Esposito. Buckler was drawing many covers for Marvel in this period, which leads me to wonder if the splash was originally prepared to be used as the cover image instead. A logical guess, with an obvious answer why it wasn't after some thought. Buckler's monster is facing away from the reader. In the past a number of covers were rejected by either Stan Lee or Publisher Martin Goodman when a major character was seen from behind. At this point Lee was publisher and either he or de facto art director John Romita may have vetoed the scene. The problem was easily solved by exchanging the images, using Kirby's splash instead. 

New splash page for "The World Below", pencils by John Byrne, inks by John Tartaglione, lettering by Jim Novak. 

The next instance of a new splash page is clearly deliberate. Dr. Droom, the short lived occult hero who occupied the pages of Amazing Adventures in 1961, was revived and reprinted in 1976, now renamed Dr. Druid, to avoid confusion with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's premiere villain - Dr. DOOM. Roger Stern presided over the reprints in Weird Wonder Tales (#'s 19-22 starred Druid) and alterations were made in the character's appearance. Dr. Druid also became "host" for the anthology back-ups, with his image inserted on the splash page of stories. For many it was the first time Dr. Droom was discovered, and although it was a minor strip with unfulfilled potential, a fellow named Steve Ditko came along a few years later and created his own mystic hero that went on to greater notoriety. As historian/fan Barry Pearl has noted, it is probably no coincidence that Ditko, who inked the first Druid story, would go on to create a better version. His track record for improving/revising strips includes Iron-Man, the Hulk and the Blue Beetle.  

Since Marvel was using Dr. Druid as a recurring character in the Marvel universe at the time, he was retroactively redrawn with a costume (in the original stories he only appeared in civilian attire), so the splash page was an addition to the story, not a replacement.

The second page (with art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers) was originally the splash. The title and some copy was dropped and two panels were added. The first panel of the ship was taken from page 5; panel 5, with a new panel added. The lettering by Jim Novak approximated Artie Simek's original, and with a little tinkering of word balloons and art alterations in panel three the page was completed. 

Roger Stern took great care to produce a different type of reprint title, seeking out interesting material from Marvel's archives and adding a letters page, a rarity in that period. Unfortunately Weird Wonder Tales # 22 was the last issue, and even though, according to Stern's editorial, sales were picking up, monsters and their ilk were waning with the reading public's interests, and the powers that be decided to concentrate on other material.  

Roger Stern's editorial from the final issue of Weird Wonder Tales. Dr. Druid illo by Marie Severin.

In a touch of serendipity, as I was planning out this blog and discussing it with my good friend Barry Pearl he showed me Tony Isabella's quote from Roger Stern about his input. Tony wrote about Marvel's horror/monster reprints, adding some very interesting information. You can read all about it here:

It's fitting to end this look into reprint minutiae with Jack Kirby's final monster cover for Marvel. Kirby produced two of the four Dr. Druid featured covers (Weird Wonder Tales #'s 19-20), but would soon leave Marvel for the final time. His era of monsters and heroes, both large and small, had come to an end. We would not see its like again.

Krang does his part for urban renewal. Jack Kirby knocks it out of the park one last time as the second monster era slowly fades away. Inks by Klaus Janson, lettering by Danny Crespi, Weird Wonder Tales # 18, October 1976. 

Thanks to Barry Pearl and Tony Isabella for their analysis, background info and enthusiasm.