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 added 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 confuse any tykes with Marvel's Thing. The reprinted cover also had the monsters right arm and hand, redrawn, added buildings in the background , dialogue and cover copy. 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 lead story from Strange Tales #93, "When The Thing Runs Amok" some changes were made. Monsters were popular at the time and many of the pre-hero stories were reprinted. The original covers were often used, but artists were also commissioned to provide new artwork, such as Gil Kane and Jim Starlin. 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 a wax figure - 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 pencilled by Rich Buckler (thanks to Steven Thompson for the conformation) with inking likely by Mike Esposito. Buckler was drawing his share of covers for Marvel in this period, which leads me to wonder if the splash was actually drawn to be the cover instead of a splash page. This makes sense, and the reason why it might not have been used seems obvious. Buckler's monster is facing away from the reader. This would likely not have appealed to Stan Lee, who had made such decisions in the past. The problem was easily solved by exchanging the images, using Kirby's splash instead. 

New splash page for "The World Below" art by Keith Giffen or John Byrne, inks by John Tartaglione, lettering by Jim Novak. Although the splash notes "thanks to Byrne, Novak and Tartag", the art looks like Keith Giffen's, who was very much in his Kirby phase in this period, as evidenced by his work on the Defenders (one issue was even inked by Kirby's primary inker of the period, Mike Royer!). 

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, so as not confuse anyone with Lee and 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 de-facto host of the anthology back-ups, with his image inserted. 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 and was aware of the character, went on to do a better version, as he improved strips such as Iron-Man, the Hulk and the Blue Beetle.  

Since Marvel was using Dr. Druid as a recurring character in the Marvel universe he was given a costume, and this splash page was an addition to the story, not a replacement.

The second page 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 was a close copy of Artie Simek's original, and with a little balloon movement and art changes in panel three the page was completed. Roger Stern took care to produce a different reprint title, seeking out interesting material from Marvel's archives and added 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, 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 Barry Pearl he showed me Tony Isabella's quote from Roger Stern about his input. Tony wrote about Marvel's horror/monster reprints just last week, adding some very interesting information. You can read all about it here:

I'd like to thank Barry Pearl and Tony Isabella for their analysis, background info and enthusiasm.

Its fitting to end this look into reprint minutiae with Jack Kirby's final monster cover for Marvel. Kirby would go on to draw two new Dr. Druid covers, but would soon leave Marvel for the final time, and his era of monsters and heroes, both large and small, had some 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 out. Cover inked by Klaus Janson, from Weird Wonder Tales # 18, Oct 1976.