Tuesday, 8 April 2014

THE FIRST-EVER MARVEL COMIC...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

In 1990, MARVEL released a hardback reprint of MARVEL
COMICS #1.  Truth to tell, it wasn't up to much, due to the fact that
restoration of old comicbook pages from published comics was very
much still in its infancy.  (Technology has come on in leaps and bounds
since then.)  If you compare the second SUB-MARINER page below
with the first, you'll notice that a lot of the detail was lost in whatever
process was used to 'bleach' out the colour, and the finished result
was less than satisfactory.  (Particularly obvious in panel 2.)

Scan of photo of printed page from actual issue of Marvel Comics #1

Scan of page from 1990 reprint volume

Scan from 2009 70th Anniversary edition

Marvel had another go in 2009 with a 70th Anniversary
edition, this time in comicbook format.  The reproduction was of
a far superior quality (as you can see from the page directly above),
and the modern colouring techniques gave it a whole new dimension.
Sadly, it didn't include the two text pages reproduced in the 1990
volume, but I've posted them here for your perusal.



Now examine the HUMAN TORCH and KA-ZAR pages
below.  Frankly, I'd be more than a little surprised if anyone actually
preferred the 1990 reprints to the 2009 versions, which have their
predecessors beat all hollow, in my famously humble opinion.  Still,
I'd be interested to read the views of anyone who's less than
impressed by them, so do feel free to comment.





Finally, the cover to the 2009 comicbook - a 'painted-over'
version of the original 1939 illustration, I believe.  Looks great
to my eyes.  However, for those not satisfied, the issue was also
released with an alternate, modern take on the cover.



So how do I top that?  Well, how about this STAN LEE
autographed page from the 1990 hardback edition?  That sure
 is a hard act to follow, don't you think?  And it's mine!

 

18 comments:

Colin Jones said...

I'm amazed that Ka-zar goes way back to 1939, I thought he was invented around 1970 but he seems a bit different from the later one and there's no Zabu. Strangely Ka-zar was in my first Marvel comic too - Planet of The Apes #5. If they started off as Marvel Comics I don't know why they became Atlas then Timely before finally Marvel again. I know they are celebrating 75 years but Marvel proper begins with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.

Kid said...

I think the company was called Timely before it became Atlas, but this was the first comic to be called Marvel Comics (#1), which then became Marvel Mystery Comics with #2. FF #1 was the first 'Marvel Age' comic, but the name existed long before, CJ.

John Pitt said...

Two words - BRILLIANT POST!!

Kid said...

Two other words - ta much.

mlp said...

A great post indeed, I really enjoyed it.
I am by no means an expert on the art or coloring involved in reprints, but the newer ones seem, well, "heavy" to me. The colors seem to have, to me anyway, too much green, grey, and brown. I've seen that in Silver Age reprints too.
I grew up seeing reprints from the Golden Age in brighter colors.
But, that's just my view.
Again, great post.

Kid said...

I think that, as an 'archivist', I'd prefer (overall) things to be as they were, but in the case of the early reprints, which were clearly inferior, they just didn't do justice to the original material. That's because they were either partial tracings, heavily (and clumsily) retouched, or taken from extremely poor sources. That's why I like the recoloured pages here, Mlp, because they imbue the pages with a depth that they'd otherwise lack. However, I think I'd like to see (where possible) the recolouring follow the original colour scheme, but with the '3D' look that modern techniques bestow upon the art.

mlp said...

I'm back again!
One of the problems I have with touching up reprints too much is, I think it's a mistake.
When I was a kid in the 70's, I was a fiend for Marvel Comics and wanted to become a comic book artist. I took quite an interest in comic book art and in my local library, I was fortunate to find (and have my mother check out for me) several books full of reprints from the Golden Age of Comics, including "Encyclopedias" of Superman and Captain Marvel.
I was very surprised by the difference between the art I saw in '70's comics and the early stuff by Joe Shuster and C.C. Beck.
Obviously, it was in some ways primitive and rough, stark, but that gave it an energy and vitality.
And anybody who loves the medium should see the early stuff as it was.
I would hope that people will always be able to see that art somewhere without having it over-embellished or painted over.

Kid said...

I think if we were only seeing recoloured reprints I'd probably agree with you, Mlp, but Marvel give us the best of both worlds by making available Masterworks and Omnibus volumes with the stuff as it originally appeared, plus recoloured stuff in special issues that potentially appeals to a more modern audience.

Also, in a lot of cases, before people like Harry Mendryk came on the scene, we weren't seeing the stuff 'as it originally appeared' - we were seeing it after it had been retouched, traced, restored, re-created, or whatever, and it was a pallid second best (and sometimes third or fourth) to its original publication. Trust me, if you compared the first Human Torch story from its reprint in Fantasy Masterpieces back in the '60s (which was essentially the same one used for the 1990 book) against an original 1939 copy of Marvel Comics #1, I don't think you'd consider it as having captured the 'energy and vitality' of the original - because it didn't. It was far too heavily and clumsily retouched from poor quality sources to begin with.

They're getting better at re-presenting old stories now, Mlp, so I don't think you have to worry about being denied good quality reprints of the originals. However, out of these three Sub-Mariner pages, I'd still say that, quality-wise, the third one is the best.

John Pitt said...

Just also seen the first Golden Age Cap on Apocalyte's blog, so are these the VERY first ever appearances of all 4 Marvel heros?

Kid said...

Ka-Zar had appeared earlier in a pulp magazine ('though not as a comic strip) published by Martin Goodman, and the first eight pages of Sub-Mariner had appeared in a cinema giveaway, but I believe I'm right in saying that it was the first appearance of Cap and the Torch - ashcan issues aside (if there were any, that is).

John Pitt said...

Thanks for that info. I've found some pix of both historic artifacts from the conception of Marvel along with some other distant ancestors of a sort - covers of Doc Savage and Wierd Tales pulp magazines.

Kid said...

Nae bother, JP. Marvel: 5 Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics is a book worth searching out as well. It's got loads of photos and info.

John Pitt said...

Kid, I've looked this book up and I am going to have to get a copy as I love books like this. It seems very reminiscent of one I saw several years ago. I can't remember the title, but it may have been something simple like The Story of Marvel Comics. It had a blue cover with Cap on & Marvel/Cap corner box in the top left and told the story up to the 70's. Do you know anything about this book, as I can't find it online?

Kid said...

The only book I can think of that comes near to fitting your description, JP, is one by Les Daniels - MARVEL: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. It tells the story of Marvel from the '30s right up to the '90s (which was when it was published - 1991). It has a blue cover and the corner Captain America box, but Spider-Man is the cover star. ISBN: 1-85227-359-3. It's a great book - and my copy is autographed by Stan Lee, who wrote the introduction.

John Pitt said...

I THINK the picture of Cap on the cover of the book I saw may well have been lifted from Sgt. Fury #13 ( see today's Daily Kirby blog post ). I'm going to try again to find it on the net.

Kid said...

Perhaps the Marvel book was later split into individual sections and published separately, JP. Otherwise, the book you're talking about is one I must've missed.

John Pitt said...

Perhaps so, as it only went up to the 70's and didn't seem thick enough to contain 300 pages.

Kid said...

Let me know if you find it, JP - I'd like to know which one it is.

(Originally posted: 21 April 2014 at 23:47.)

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