Tuesday, 27 July 2010

DON'T BUSTER GUT!



Here's a cover many of you won't have seen before, except as a
reduced B&W image in some ads in BUSTER and WHIZZER &
CHIPS comic libraries back in the mid-'80s; or for the first time in
colour over at this link. Click on now for loads of fascinating
facts and features about ANDY CAPP's wayward offspring.

This issue was pulled at the last moment because it showed Buster
and his pal handling fireworks, which was not a good example to be
putting on the cover of a children's comic. However, I'm lucky enough
to be one of the few people (maybe I'm the only person - wouldn't that
be something?) to own a copy of this rare comic. (Bidding starts at
one million. Form an orderly queue.)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

FRIGHTENING LIGHTNING STRIKES - AGAIN!




Non-glow Frankie - built & painted by
Kid Robson
Following on from their rerelease
of AURORA's BIG FRANKIE kit
a year or so ago, MOEBIUS have
also released a GLOW-IN-THE-
DARK version of the same kit. The
original model was only available
for a period of about a year back in
the '60s before being withdrawn, and
was never issued as a luminous kit.
Moebius have now rectified this
situation, so get your hands on this
kit before it sells out - if it hasn't
already. See details below.

(And what a thrill it is for me
to finally own this classic model
nearly 40 years after having
first seen it advertised in the
back pages of U.S. colour comicbooks and black and white magazines.)
 

What a fantastic looking new model - a scene straight from the 1931
UNIVERSAL PICTURES movie - FRANKENSTEIN. Moebius are
doing some terrific models, including rereleasing various Aurora
models with their original box artwork.

Details can be found at http://www.moebiusmodels.com/ - check it out.

FANTASTIC PHWOAAARR! THIS PIC SHOULD GO DOWN A STORM...


"Kid - I want you - now!"

 JESSICA ALBA as SUE STORM - thankfully not invisible in this pic.
I've been in love with Susie (when she was just a drawing) since I was 7 -
so hands off - I get first dibs. (In my universe, Reed Richards married a
SKRULL masquerading as Sue. The 'real' one loves me.) 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

THANK HEAVENS FOR NOT-SO-LITTLE GIRLS...


Just as well I've got non-slip hands - otherwise I'd
have got slapped

Look at my face in the above photograph - you're right - I
can't believe my luck!  A real, live, pretty girl - and I've got my arm
around her.  Look - you can see I've almost fainted from the shock.
Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take her home as she was a friend
of the person who took the photograph - but I put "real, live, pretty
girl" at the top of my Christmas list to Santa that year. 

I was so impressed by her that I drew a caricature of
her from memory, but - lazy loafer that I am - I never got
around to inking or colouring it.  Maybe one day...

KEVIN OR TREVOR? THAT IS THE QUESTION...



Sometime back in February or March of 1985, BOB PAYNTER,
group editor of IPC's humour division, asked me if I might have any
ideas for a new comic which was in development.  "It's going to be like
VIZ, but not quite as rude!", he informed me.  As far as I remember, the
comic was an "out-of-house" production being developed in Manchester
(I think - could have been Birmingham) and IPC were only going to
print and distribute it through their usual channels.

I turned my mighty brain to the task and soon came up with a
daft idea for someone who owned a pair of talking socks.  At first
I was going to call him TREVOR, being slightly more alliterative, but
decided instead to name him after KEVIN BRIGHTON, one of the
IPC art assistants, who worked at the desk next to mine on the
26th floor of KING'S REACH TOWER.

I was living in Southsea at the time, and I recall as if it were only
yesterday, sitting in the cafe on the top floor of Portsmouth's central
library, working on the rough of the first (and - so far - only) episode of
KEVIN & HIS TALKING SOCKS.  I duly handed it in to Bob, who sent
it off to the OINK boys (for that was the very comic being developed) for
consideration.  Some weeks later I asked Bob if he'd had any response, but
he hadn't, so we assumed that my strip hadn't found favour and promptly
forgot about it.  Several months later, however, I decided to draw up the
finished strip - just for my own satisfaction.  Below is a scan of the photo-
copies I made of the original roughs before giving them to Bob to send
on (which were never returned), and which I used as a guide
when I drew up the finished page.


Interestingly, some time after OINK hit the stands, a new
strip appeared in it called HECTOR VECTOR & HIS TALKING
T-SHIRT. Coincidence?  Subliminal influence?  Rip-off?  Don't suppose
I'll ever really know, but it certainly gives me pause for thought.  The strip
at the top of the page is scanned (in two halves) from an A3 hand-coloured
photocopy, hence the wrinkles and wavy border lines in places.  It was
produced in a hurry for THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL
about fifteen years ago - see footnote under the strip for details.

At the risk of overkill, here it is again, in its original, one-page
format.  Created, written, pencilled, inked and lettered by myself.
Nice of me to take the blame, don'tcha think?


******

Unfortunately, due to Lew Stringer maliciously implying on
another forum that this post contradicts my claim to never having
actively sought a career as a strip cartoonist during my lettering
years, it behooves me to emphasise some important points.

1) Bob Paynter sought my participation, not the other way around. 

2) Responding to an invitation for ideas is not pursuing an ambition.

3) Had the idea been accepted (instead of just copied), I would've
been unavailable to draw the strip.  My 'involvement' would've
ended upon acceptance.  Hopefully that clears things up.

Although at one time I did entertain aspirations to become an
adventure comic strip artist, I swiftly abandoned them once my
freelance lettering career took off.  I never actively sought work
as an artist on any comic during my 15 year stint in the industry.

Further details are covered in passing on this post.  No doubt a
certain 'someone' will try to manufacture a discrepancy, but every-
thing I have ever said on the subject is consistent under scrutiny
   with the application of a little contemplative consideration.   

Friday, 23 July 2010

THEY CAME IN SEARCH OF PARADISE - AND FOUND IT IN...



Nearly 25 years ago, as the lettering artist of 2000 AD's
STRONTIUM DOG, I decided to have a go - purely for my own
amusement - at drawing ol' JOHNNY ALPHA in the style of the
strip's artist and co-creator, CARLOS EZQUERRA.

A few years later, 2000 AD's then sub-editor ALAN McKENZIE
bought it for possible publication in one of the reprint mags, as the
page size would accommodate the dimensions I'd drawn it in. (When
I'd first drawn it, 2000 AD was of the same scale, but changed
not too long after.)

However, I don't know if it was ever printed - so here it is,
perhaps for the very first time anywhere. Remember, it was
drawn a long time ago, so please be gentle.

A MESS THAT DIDN'T MAKE MUCH SENSE? SOMEONE'S SURELY LOST THE PLOT...



When MARVEL announced the release of FANTASTIC FOUR -
THE LOST ADVENTURE a couple of years back, I was quite excited.
After all, how could it be anything other than interesting to see what the
legendary JACK KIRBY had originally intended for this tale before STAN
LEE revised it into a flashback, bookended by new JOHN BUSCEMA
artwork?  And it was interesting - but it certainly wasn't the block-
busting, overwhelming experience we were all led to expect.

JOHN MORROW, in his introduction, says that Stan and John's
version was "a real a mess that, quite frankly, didn't make much sense".
I disagree - if anything, it was Jack's version that was somewhat lacking in
that department.  It's no secret that Jack wasn't trying too hard in his last few
months at Marvel, and was content to produce entertaining, but less than earth-
shattering, one-off, basic stories as he marked time 'til moving to DC COMICS.
The coincidence of a bust of JANUS being unearthed at almost the same time
the FF battle a villain of the same name is a tad too contrived.  Stan could no
doubt have diluted this aspect with a bit of clever dialogue, but instead of
running with a one-off tale, he made better use of the character and used
the story as a prologue to a two-part adventure in the Negative Zone.


Also, by editing out the twin that Jack introduced, Stan's clever twist in
the tale of the 'brother' being the evil manifestation of Janus himself is more
in keeping with the 'two-faced' aspect of the name, and resulted in a far more
satisfying resolution to the episode.  Sure, it would have been nice if Jack had
drawn the complete issue, but Big John B's input isn't too distracting,
thanks to Joltin' JOE SINNOTT's inks.



Jack's story wasn't bad - but Stan's version had more depth, more
characterization, more drama, more conflict - and, ultimately, far more
entertainment value - not to mention being much more satisfying.  At least,
that's how I see it, but I suppose it's really rather subjective as to which pres-
entation is better.  In the final analysis, the most that can be accurately - and
objectively - claimed is that the two versions are merely 'different' - and only
slightly at that.  Stan and Jack might not always have agreed on which
direction a story should go, but neither of them ever produced a
"mess" in their lives.

In Volume 11 of FF MARVEL MASTERWORKS, JON B. COOKE
suggests in his introduction that Stan's decision to delay the story may have
been due to "spite from a hurt ex-partner".  I confess that I was surprised by
this comment - and even more surprised that Marvel printed it.  To introduce
this unfounded and unwarranted speculation from out of nowhere is recklessy
irresponsible.  In what way would the printing sequence of a one-off story have
affected Jack - by that time an ex-contributor?  The idea is ludicrous and clearly
without merit; there is no evidence to suggest that Stan's decision to delay
the story is attributable to anything other than taking the time required,
as editor, to work on what he saw as problems with the plot.



One can never be dogmatic in speculating how history may have
been altered had certain aspects been different, but it's not entirely un-
likely that, had Jack never left Marvel, the story may well have seen print
more-or-less exactly as it appeared with Stan's revisions - but illustrated by
Jack from cover to cover.  After all, Stan often asked Jack to redraw panels
and pages to accommodate his ideas for the direction of the plot, so there's
no reason to suppose that it would have been different on this occasion.
Therefore, perhaps the only difference Jack's departure made to the
finished result, was that the revisions were rendered by John
Buscema instead of Jack himself.

However, there are other issues raised by this landmark
story.  To read what they are, click on the link below:

http://kidr77.blogspot.com/2010/08/kirby-has-left-building.html

Thursday, 22 July 2010

LOOK AND LEARN...WHY DON'TCHA?



 A couple of years or so back, I purchased THE BIG BUMPER BOOK
OF LOOK & LEARN (published by CENTURY). I didn't buy the mag
when I was a child (although I did for a time in the mid-'70s as a teenager),
but its presence was everywhere; schools, libraries, doctors' and dentists'
waiting rooms and the like, and it was certainly a quality magazine. As well
as the book, a new series of LOOK & LEARN was also published
as a limited, 48 issue subscription, with binders also available.

Recently, I bought the set - and what a treasure it is! Many of
the paintings are truly astounding, being by the likes of top illustrators
of the day - like EMBLETON, LAWRENCE, HOWAT, PAYNE, etc.
What's more, although it originally appeared in RANGER magazine,
the legendary TRIGAN EMPIRE is reprinted from its first episode -
as it originally appeared. On top of all that, if you purchase the set, it
comes with a faithful facsimile of the original 1962 issue of
Look & Learn #1 - complete with free gift.

Go on - recapture those long-ago, vanished days of your youth, and
order the set - with binders - of a true classic that graced the news-
agents' shelves for a good 20 years. You know it makes sense.

Details can be found at http://www.lookandlearn.com/ - click on now.

IT'S A KNOCKOUT...

 
 
One of my favourite comics of the '70s was KNOCKOUT. I faithfully
purchased it every week, and I remember being particularly fascinated by
the cover of the 1972 HOLIDAY SPECIAL. There was just something
about the colour scheme that captured my attention. The Special featured
such strips as MY BRUVVER, PETE'S POCKETS, SHRIMP, BEEFY
BRAWN, SON OF SIR, COPY KATE, THE TOFFS & THE TUFFS,
THE GROUP, MOOSE, JOKER, THE SUPER SEVEN, BARRY &
BOING, FUSS POT, BEAT YOUR NEIGHBOUR, BONEY, LITTLE
DEVIL, THE FULL HOUSE - and my favourite - THE HAUNTED
WOOD. Super value for money at only 10 new pence.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT ME?


"BOO!"
ROBERT DE NIRO as the
FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER?
Don't make me laugh!  There's
only one person who ever pulled
off that gig, and that's KARLOFF
THE UNCANNY!  Boris - or as
he was known to his pals - BILL
PRATT (his given name being
William Henry Pratt) - has never
been bettered in his portrayal
of the much-misunderstood and
maligned monster, in my humble
opinion.  (Although GLENN
STRANGE & LON CHANEY Jr.
gave honourable impersonations.
The less said about BELA
LUGOSI's portrayal, the better.)

Art & logo by Kid Robson
Regarding the image to the right,
I originally drew the face freehand
(using a photo as reference) back in
around 1981/82.  In 1985 I was con-
tributing to HUGH CAMPBELL's
fanzine, FUSION, and I decided
to knock up a cover for it.  I hand-
lettered the logo, added some Letra-
tone, drew the shoulders, then cut
out a photocopy of my drawing of
the head and stuck it down.  (I wasn't
drawing all that again.) The above
scan comes from a poor photocopy
of the original finished cover.  I can't
remember if I ever sent it to Hugh
(perhaps Fusion had folded before
I got around to it), but it was never
printed. You're seeing it here for the
very first time.  (Actually, I had used the head to produce a cover for RON
BENNETT's catalogue, SKYRACK's FANTASY TRADER first, but I
never got around to sending that either.)

STAND BY FOR ACTION...



While we're discussing GERRY ANDERSON-related subjects, let's
take a look at another beautiful piece of artwork - this time the cover of
the 1966 STINGRAY ANNUAL, painted by RON EMBLETON. There's
no point in saddling this piece with needless verbiage from me -
artwork like this speaks for itself.

"I WISH I WAS A SPACEMAN..."



MIKE NOBLE still illustrates today as well as he ever did. Age took
its toll on the talents of KIRBY and DITKO, but you'd be hard-pushed to
find any deterioration between the quality of what he produced week after
week in the pages of  TV COMIC, TV CENTURY 21 and LOOK-IN (and
many other titles) back in the '60s, '70s and '80s, and the occasional
commissions he undertakes today.

It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words - here's two pictures
which prove that little adage a thousand times over. Above, the cover
of the 1966/'67 FIREBALL XL5 Annual; below, the cover to one of the
disc holders in the complete DVD collection of the same programme.

MEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOWWW!!!! LEE MERIWETHER - THE CAT'S PYJAMAS!



You want words too? Are you mental? Just look at that face.
'Nuff said!

CURT SWAN - THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN PENCIL...

 
Study that cover - doesn't
SUPERMAN look as if he's
actually hovering in mid-flight
outside CLARK KENT's high-
rise apartment? You really do
believe a man can fly! Doesn't
Clark look like he's really cling-
ing on for dear life to avoid
falling to his doom?

Artists like ALEX ROSS
have accustomed us to realistic
depictions of superheroes - but,
back in the '60s - CURT SWAN
had been there, done that, and
bought the celebration mug - at
time when comicbooks were
regarded as kid-stuff and as
far removed from realistic
illustration as could be.

The cover has an almost 3D quality to it, and when I look at it, I
wonder why, back in the early '80s, many then-current "new kids on the
block" artists described Curt Swan's work as "boring". I don't think it was
boring - he just had an uncanny knack for making fantastic events look as
if he'd glanced out of his window and recorded them on artboard as
they happened. The word I'm looking for is - real!

I remember this cover from my childhood, and the effect it had
on me then. It still has that effect today. That takes a special kind
of  talent - and talent was what Curt Swan had in spades!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

THE WORLD HAS HELD GREAT HEROES...



Look at the pic above - my part of it was drawn about 25 years ago
when I worked as a resize artist on the BUSTER and WHIZZER &
CHIPS comic libraries. That entailed turning one standard-sized page
into two 'commando' sized pages. I won't bore you all with the reasons
why here. Anyone interested can skip over the the excellent BUSTER
site at http://www.bustercomic.co.uk/ and read a fuller account on the
interviews page. However, part of the process often involved extending
the odd panel or two. I could have merely extended the horizon lines to
fill out the pic, but I thought I'd give the editor value for money, hence
the addition of MR. TOAD and my own character, PERCY PROON,
on the left-hand side of the picture.

I was always quite proud of the effort I put into the comic libraries,
and I remember working on this panel as if it were yestyerday. So, just
thought I'd post it here. Bear in mind that a comic libraries page (before
printing) was only about twice the size of the published item, so I had
to draw pretty small.

Here's another one from a CHAMP strip...


...and one from SHINER...


...and one from TOMBOY.


Yup, ol' Percy sure got around in those days.

HAVE MISSION, WILL TRAVEL...



Some years back, I saw some collectables advertised in EXCHANGE
& MART. I duly sent off a cheque for the required amount and sat back
to await my treasures - they never came. I contacted the seller, and it was
clear from his evasiveness that he'd never had the items to begin with.
Being Scottish, I'll travel miles to recover a shilling, so London was no
distance. Faster than you can say "speeding bullet", I was down there
to recover my money from said shady seller and to inform him of the
error of his ways.

Did I get my money? Is SALMA HAYEK a goddess? Of course
I did! And what did the would-be conman get from the encounter?
I'll leave that up to your imagination - but he wouldn't have been
smiling for a while. 

One up for the good guys I'd say.

GET THAT DOG ON A LEAD...



If you haven't yet got yourself a copy of the excellent THE VERY
BEST OF BLACK BOB hardback, I'd suggest you purchase it as soon
as you can. My local Waterstone's only ordered three copies - and they
say that the publisher (Waverley Books) have none left in stock. This is
a must-have for every true fan of British comic strips. The only thing
better would have been if they had released facsimiles of the original
eight books. I'm lucky enough to have five of them, the 1959 edition
being my favourite. ('Cos that's the one I had when I was a kid.)

The book has an introduction by Morris Heggie, and an index
by Ray Moore of every Black Bob tale ever published.

Superb value at only £9.99. ISBN: 978-1-84934-028-1.

IT FLIES THROUGH THE AIR...



Calling all SUPERCAR fans! Back in the '60s, GOLD KEY published
four Supercar comics. Last year, artist Evi De Vie recreated the cover of
issue #2 as a limited-edition print, which I suspect are long gone. However,
he recently signed fifty 16 x 20 proofs - so check out the following link
http://fabgearusa.com/supercar_gold_key_cover_giclee_prints.html
for details of how to obtain one. Better be quick!

Here's the official spiel:

FULL BOOST VERTICAL! Gold Key's Supercar comics from the
1960's featured beautiful painted covers featuring the Black Rock labs
crew in adventurous or dangerous settings.

Now, artist Evi De Vie has recreated the cover to issue two, featuring
Supercar and crew flying over a nuclear submarine surfacing in the
Antarctic! Our highest quality giclee prints on heavy duty, acid-free
archival paper accurately recreate the original painting in every way.

Evi De Vie is an American illustrator, and one of the original designers
for the Lunar Models. Lunar Models was the original American sci-fi
garage kit company and De Vie worked on many of the company's
models. He has been a fan of the Anderson's Supermarionation and
live-action shows since childhood.

This unique reproduction is the result of many painstaking hours of
work and the result is stunning. Supercar majestically passes above
the ice floe as the men below wave. In the cockpit, Mike, Professor
Popkiss, Jimmy and Mitch look down at the scene. Evocative of the
best comic art of the 1960's, this print is a must-have item any
Anderson collection. Order now!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

SMASH! POW! IT'S FANTASTIC - AND IT CERTAINLY WAS...



In case you were wondering, ol' SPIDEY's web is attached to
an overhead helicopter - unfortunately, he's been hanging on since
Glasgow and he's now over Blackpool, so his arms are tired. What
a great cover 'though, I'm sure you'll agree.

This was a cracker of a Summer Special, featuring SPIDER-MAN
MEETS DR. STRANGE, the origin of DAREDEVIL (abridged), THE
TORCH MEETS THE ICEMAN, THE CLOAK BATTLES THE CRAFTY
CROW, MR. KNOWALL'S FUN PAGETHE SWOTS & THE BLOTS,
THOR vs HERCULES in WHEN TITANS CLASH!, SAMMY SHRINK,
BRIAN'S BRAIN, full-colour pin-ups, plus a few other things I've
doubtless forgotten. I only have to look at this and I'm back in
1968. Ah, happy days.

Unfortunately, 'though I little knew it at the time, the POWER era
was coming to an end. A mere three or four months later, FANTASTIC
was incorporated into SMASH!, which itself only lasted in its then-present
form for another four or five months - before being relaunched in March
'69 as a more traditional type comic in the VALIANT vein. That meant no
more weekly MARVEL heroes (not counting TV21's dabbling with a few
of them) until THE MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL was launched
on the very last day of September, 1972.

Anyway, enjoy these awesome images from the only ODHAMS
PRESS Summer Special ever to feature the sensational superheroes
from the Mighty Marvel stable. It's a genuine collectors' item.

 
 





SMASH! - NOT JUST FOR MARTIANS...




 Just for fun, I thought readers might like to see the cover and some
interior panels from the 1969 SMASH HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Although
I was disappointed when SMASH! stopped featuring MARVEL reprints,
I have to admit that I liked the relaunched version almost as much.

 
A few years ago, GIL PAGE, who was the editor of the new SMASH!,
wrote an article at my request about his life in comics. It was intended
for publication in THE ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL, of which
I was assistant editor, but the magazine changed hands and then faded
into obscurity without the article ever seeing print.

 
Fortunately, CRIKEY! stepped into the breach and published the
article in issue #5. So, for an interesting read about the background of
SMASH! (and other fascinating, never-before revealed reminiscences by
Gil - who went on to become the executive editor of the FLEETWAY/
IPC comics division), track down a back issue of CRIKEY! #5 as
soon as possible. Life's not complete without it.

RICH BEYOND THE DREAMS OF AVARICE...

 
Back in the 20th
century - 1973 to be
exact - an envelope
addressed to myself
popped through the
letterbox one morning.
Being only 14 or so,
receiving personal
mail wasn't a regular
occurrence for me, so
naturally enough I
wondered what it was.
I soon found out - a
postal order for £1,
along with a letter
telling me that my
"Creepy Creation"
would be featured in
the very next issue of
SHIVER & SHAKE.

When the day arrived, I rushed out and bought a copy. Nevertheless,
thrilled as I was about my moment of fame (to say nothing of my untold
wealth), I was surprised to see that it seemed to be my actual drawing that
had been printed - albeit with a super-duper, touch-up inking job by the
mighty KEN REID. I had hoped that my original drawing would be good
enough to be published as is, but I was resigned to the likelihood that it
would be completely redrawn by Mr. Reid himself.

But no - all the glaring imperfections inherent in my original
drawing were still all-too obvious - surely Ken would have fixed them if
he had completely redrawn my submission? Honest - that really seems to
be my basic drawing under the super-slick inking style of the artist of
FRANKIE STEIN and FACEACHE and dozens of other characters. The
wings are a little more ornate than I would have originally rendered them,
but what you're looking at above is, in all probability, a genuine Kid
Robson/Ken Reid collaboration.

Ken wasn't the only one to recognize quality when he saw it, 'though.
(Relax - my tongue is half in my cheek.) A few years later, someone traced
my character and submitted it to a competition in MARVEL U.K.'s THE
TITANS -  and was one of a 100 runners-up. To add insult to injury, I had
also entered the competition and was amongst the top ten of those 100
runners-up, but my prize of a Treasury Edition must have been lost in
the Twilight Zone because I never received it.

So feast your eyes - the only Kid Robson/Ken Reid drawing in existence.
(I suppose his name really should come first - but it's my blog. And he
got paid far more than a £1 for his share of the work.)

AN AMAZING FANTASY...


Spidey's 1st appearance. Art by Kirby & Ditko
You all know the story. Or at
least, you should - it's been
repeated often enough.

Once upon a time,
there was a comic called
AMAZING FANTASY.
From issue #7 it was
rechristened AMAZING
ADULT FANTASY, but it
reverted back to its original
title on its 15th and final
appearance. And in that last
issue was a 'throwaway'
character called SPIDER-
MAN, in an 11-page
origin tale.

Publisher MARTIN GOOD-
MAN had  reluctantly allowed
writer/editor STAN LEE to get
the character out of his system, because it didn't much matter what the contents
were of a magazine whose demise had been ordained months before due to
declining circulation. When that issue's sales figures came in, it was realized
that Spidey was a surprise hit, and he was resurrected in his own comic.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Yep, that's the story, which has now passed into legend. So what's wrong
with it - apart from the fact that the first six issues of Amazing Fantasy
were actually called AMAZING ADVENTURES? Almost everything, as it
happens; it's not a legend - it's more of a myth!

The proof of this assertion? Amazing Fantasy #15 itself! Read the final
caption (deleted from most reprints until recently) of Spider-Man's origin.
"Be sure to see the next issue of Amazing Fantasy - - - for the further amazing
exploits of America's most different teenage idol - - Spiderman!"

Not yet convinced? Read the "important message" (proclaims the cover
blurb) "from the editor" inside the magazine for the clincher. "As you can
see, we are introducing one of the most unusual fantasy characters of all
time - The Spiderman, who will appear every month in Amazing. Perhaps,
if your letters request it, we will make his stories even longer, or have
TWO Spiderman stories per issue."

Spidey's first issue. Art by Kirby & Ditko
This shows that Spidey
was intended as an ongoing
character from the off, and
that AF #15 was meant to be
a new direction for the title.
The message goes on to say
that the word "adult" has been
dropped from the masthead to
spare the blushes of teeanagers
who felt "awkward" buying the
mag. There may be some truth
to this; with diminishing sales,
Marvel would certainly have
considered this as a possible
factor. I suspect, 'though,
that the main reason was
simply that it would seem
ridiculous having the word
"adult" on the cover of a
"long-underwear" character
aimed at juveniles.

The lettering in the final caption has clearly been altered from Amazing
Adult Fantasy to Amazing Fantasy, indicating that not only was the
name-change a last minute revision, but also that the decision to cancel the
magazine wasn't made until after it had gone to press and maybe even hit
the stands. Final confirmation is supplied by the new logo - why go to the
bother and expense of designing a new masthead for a mag you knew was
going to be the last issue? The word "adult'" could easily have been
omitted from the old logo with no extra work required.

It's fairly obvious what happened. Goodman must have become
aware of just how poorly previous issues had performed and wielded
the axe, regardless of Stan's plans for the title. Then, months later, when
the higher-than-usual sales figures and positive feedback from readers
came in, Goodman gave permission for Stan to continue on course.

Besides, a big, bold AMAZING SPIDER-MAN logo screaming from the
cover of his own magazine would have more impact on the spinner-racks
and greater appeal to readers wanting in on the ground floor. At that time, a
restrictive distribution deal meant that Marvel could only produce around eight
titles a month, so what had been intended as AF #16 metamorphosed into THE
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, with a potentially sales-boosting assist from
THE FANTASTIC FOUR on the cover. (The main story was no doubt prepared
for AF #16. The cover-featured back-up story - and therefore the cover itself -
were probably later developments to hook FF readers in a cunningly conceived
sales ploy.) It's clear, however, that Spidey's own title was, in content if not
in name, exactly what Amazing Fantasy was intended to become.

Ditko's unpublished cover
So why, in the letter's
page of ASM #4,
did Stan Lee give the
following account of how
Spidey gained his own
title? "We planned to
present him in the final
issue of AMAZING ADULT
FANTASY, just to satisfy
ourselves. But, the rest is
history! His surprise
appearance jolted readers
everywhere, and we were
deluged with letters
demanding  that he be
given his own magazine."
One explanation is that
perhaps he simply meant
"We planned to present
him in [what became]
the final issue..."

Or, given Stan's notoriously poor memory and the seven month
gap between AF #15 and ASM # 1, he probably just forgot the precise
details. Years later, when he came to write ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS,
he simply recounted the story as he (mis-) remembered it from ASM #4, even
'though it didn't quite match up with the facts presented in AF #15 itself.

There! Another Marvel Mystery cleared up for posterity.

If only it was always so easy!

(Originally published in slightly different form in COMICS
INTERNATIONAL #148, August 2002.)