web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #105

This is the one-hundredth and fifth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

This is a special theme week (it’s also, I am pretty sure, the two year anniversary of this feature). The theme? “REDRAWN”

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jack Kirby was okay with DC redrawing his Superman faces.

STATUS: False

One of the more astonishing facets of Jack Kirby’s career came when he first left Marvel to go to work for DC Comics in the early 70s. Kirby’s first work was on Jimmy Olsen, where Superman would frequently appear.

Therefore, you would figure – “Wow, Kirby has come to DC, and we’re going to get to see Kirby draw Superman! Wow!”

Sadly, that was not the case, as DC famously re-drew all of Kirby’s Superman figures using “acceptable” artists such as Al Plastino and Murphy Anderson.

1027_4_133.jpg

Here is an example of the changes, courtesy of noted comic historian (and Kirby expert), Mark Evanier (check out his detailed history of who drew what here, and always be sure to check out his awesome series of frequently asked questions about Jack Kirby, or Jack FAQs)

Pretty amazing, no?

supermanhead1.jpgsupermanhead2.jpg

However, it is interesting to note that, when the story is retold, it is often noted that Kirby did not really have a problem with the changes, which always struck me as odd. I mean, how could he not have a problem with it?

So I went back to the best guy to give me an answer, none other than Mark Evanier, who gave me the scoop:

Jack was royally pissed about the fact that someone at DC insisted that his drawings of Superman and Jimmy Olsen had to be retouched. I mean, what artist wouldn’t be unhappy about something like that? He also didn’t understand the thinking. For weeks and weeks, folks at DC were telling him, “We want you to take our comics in new directions. We need you to help us reinvent our line for the future.” And then the first time he hands in something, the reaction is, “Whoa! This doesn’t look like what we’ve been publishing! We need to bring in a guy who’s been drawing Superman since the late forties — an artist we no longer even want to have working on Superman [Al Plastino was not working regularly on the Superman titles at the time] — to redraw everything!”

So Jack was annoyed and Jack was mystified. But he was also new at DC and eager to show his new employer that he could fit in and play well with others. He may have told them it didn’t bother him a lot..but he sure told me and everyone around him how wrong he thought it was, both in terms of respect for his work and for the sales of the comic.

That’s what I would think.

Thanks to Mark for all the information.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC redrew Superman’s face on a comic drawn by the same person who designed Superman on the popular Super Friends TV series.

STATUS: True

That Evanier! He is on top of everything! So it was that, four years ago, he told an amazing story that happened to the artwork of comic book legend, Alex Toth, that is just practically unbelievable.

As you may or may not know (and, really, after reading Bill’s 147th Reason to Love Comics, you have no excuse NOT to know!), Alex Toth was an amazing comic book artist who later went on to become an amazing artist in the animation field.

Among the shows he designed include Space Angel, Space Ghost, Shazzan, Birdman, and, most notably (for this legend, at least), the Superfriends.

Super_Friends.jpg

It is notable that it was Toth who designed the popular cartoon series because of what happened to Toth in 1975, when he drew a one-shot for DC starring the Superfriends.

2100_4_C-41.jpg

Notice anything unusual?

They took out Toth’s Superman face and replaced it with one drawn by Curt Swan!!!!

Can you believe that?!?

The same man who was considered good enough to DESIGN Superman for the cartoon series seen by millions was not considered appropriate enough to draw Superman’s face on a comic book cover.

His head was cut out of the cover and had another face pasted on in its place.

As with Kirby, the reasoning by DC was that it had so much money tied up in licensing Superman, it did not want to vary from the Curt Swan-drawn Superman that had become a staple in the field of licensed products (Towels, Bedsheets, Pillowcases, Napkins, Paper Plates, etc.). That excuse flies a lot better with Kirby, though, than it does with the man that they had drawing the cartoon seen by millions of children every week!

Evanier shared a piece that collector Frank Giella had acquired, where Toth notes at the top to excuse the “editorial surgery.”

toth.jpg

In a nice twist, recently, DC released a poster of that cover…

3453_a_full.jpg

As you can see, the Superman head is different. What they did was to take an Alex Toth head from the back cover of the Superfriends one-shot and affix it to Superman’s body. Here’s the back cover…

lce41bc.jpg

Clever, and a very nice job by DC of correcting an earlier mistake. It’s a little bit off, but it still looks pretty darn good. And, most importantly, it’s all-Toth!!

Well done, DC!

Thanks, once again, to Mark Evanier (and to Frank Giella for scanning the piece he acquired).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel had Dave Cockrum redraw the X-Men in an X-Men guest appearance in a John Byrne-drawn issue of Iron Fist.

STATUS: True

As mentioned in the previous urban legends, it was a fairly common occurrence for editorial staffers to make fairly drastic art changes inside comics (heck, it still occasionally happens TODAY!).

An, in hindsight, amazing happenstance took place in the pages of Iron Fist #15.

The Iron Fist series from the mid-70s was written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne, in a pre-X-Men pairing of the two, and it was a very nice comic book.

Byrne’s art, in particular, is splendid.

2252_4_08.jpg

However, while Byrne was clearly a valuable asset to Marvel, even at that time, he was not yet as established as other artists, like Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum. As awesome as that above Iron Fist cover was, Byrne astonishingly only did two to three Iron Fist covers other than that one, out of the fifteen issues! Gil Kane drew the majority of the covers.

Thus, when the X-Men guest-starred in the last issue of Iron Fist (the character then moved over to Power Man’s book, which became a team-up series, but by then, Byrne and Claremont were on the way out), it was X-Men artist, Dave Cockrum, who drew the cover to the issue.

2252_4_15.jpg

That wasn’t all Cockrum drew, though!

In an uncanny twist, Byrne, who later had a legendary run on the X-Men title himself, had his X-Men faces actually redrawn by Cockrum!

Here’s an example from the issue…

Wolverine-as-Fang.jpg

Pretty amazing, when you look at it now, but at the time, I doubt it was even seen as anything all that unusual.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!

88 Comments

You know, I’d heard that Wolverine actually wore that purloined Shiar Imperial Guard “Fang” costume for a while, but I’d never seen evidence of it. That’s um… wow. Glad he went back to his usual outfit soon enough.

And also “wow” for Jack Kirby’s original Superman. Cripes, no wonder they had to have someone come in to redraw it. Maybe inking and coloring would have helped, but from the pencils, MAN is that bad art! Can’t even tell it’s supposed to be Superman…

Off topic: Not that I don’t enjoy your excellent blog, but is there some way you could stop the RSS feed from refreshing every time a new comment is posted? It’s pretty annoying to have my reader full of repetitive posts.

Thanks!

Have to concur with yo go re. Kirby’s Superman looks like a street fighter.

Off topic: Not that I don’t enjoy your excellent blog, but is there some way you could stop the RSS feed from refreshing every time a new comment is posted? It’s pretty annoying to have my reader full of repetitive posts.

Thanks!

I’ll ask about it!

Aside from the hairdo I think Kirby’s Superman looks pretty cool, the proportions are better too.

That Toth Superman face looks like he’s got a popcorn husk stuck between his teeth.

“Jesus, Kal, can’t you stop that for just one second while they take the picture?”

“Sorry, Diana, but it’s really jammed in there! Does anyone have some floss?”

Off topic: Not that I don’t enjoy your excellent blog, but is there some way you could stop the RSS feed from refreshing every time a new comment is posted? It’s pretty annoying to have my reader full of repetitive posts.

Interesting. On the reader I use (the Wizz RSS extension for Firefox) I have it show me which posts have been read and when a feed is updated and it doesn’t register the posts on the pages at all – only the actual new articles.

And yeah that Jack Kirby pick really doesn’t look like Supes

To play the devil’s advocate, I really don’t mind when DC does this sort of thing with Superman. Nothing irritates me more than flicking through a comic book and seeing an off-looking Superman. He’s an icon!

As disappointing as it is to lose Kirby and Toth’s version of Superman in these drawings, it was an industry-wide (not just DC) practice at the time to keep characters “on-model” and retouch when they weren’t. As Erik Larsen mentions in one of this (much-missed) CBR columns:

There was a time when “Romita’s Raiders” (and the “Jazzy” one himself) routinely redrew faces which were deemed “off model” in Marvel comics of all sorts. Hell, Johnny Romita even did corrections on faces drawn by Jack Kirby of Captain America– a character Jack himself created!

You can read the rest of Erik’s thoughts here:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/index.cgi?column=ofo&article=2298

> You know, I’d heard that Wolverine actually wore that purloined Shiar Imperial Guard “Fang” costume for a while, but I’d never seen evidence of it. That’s um… wow. Glad he went back to his usual outfit soon enough.

That was the only other place it appeared – it was originally meant to be a permanent change for him, but then they had second thoughts. The IF issue slipped through the cracks before the second thoughts.

Funny, that Wolverine face looks like Byrne to me. Cockrum would never have skewed the mouth that way but Byrne would (and did, often).

Also, in defense of Romita & Co., lots of the “corrections” were actually repairs necessitated by damage to the original art. Not always, mind you, nor even probably most of the time, but often enough that it should be considered before jumping to conclusions about the motivations behind a particular change. Remember, too, that there are likely thousands of such changes we don’t notice because they’re made to a background or something where we aren’t as sensitive to stylistic discrepancies.

>That was the only other place it appeared – it was originally meant to be a permanent change for him, but then they had second thoughts. The IF issue slipped through the cracks before the second thoughts.

[sorry it deleted my comment]

Cockrum wanted a costume redesign, but then he left the title. Byrne didn’t like the new “Fang” costume.

Morten Pedersen

June 1, 2007 at 7:37 am

Actully Logan wore that Fang suit, because the IF issue happends right, after the X-men comes home from space.

And a urban legend submission:
Jae Lee was supposed to do a three issue Iron Fist story, but he forgot about it and when he finally got time to do it, he went over to Image.

SanctumSanctorumComix

June 1, 2007 at 7:44 am

That “FANG” costume gets dragged out of the moth-balls every now and again.

They most recently gave it to Wolvie’s clone/”daughter” X-21 (or whatever her name is).
It looks far better on her.

I believe it was also used by MORPH (or was it SABRETOOTH) in a fairly recent EXILES issue.

~P~
P-TOR

Since we’re on the subject of redraws, that Iron Fist cover that Byrne did was also partly redrawn. Bryne has said that the right hand was redrawn by John Romita, Sr. (who was the Art Director). The changes never stop!

“That “FANG” costume gets dragged out of the moth-balls every now and again.

They most recently gave it to Wolvie’s clone/”daughter” X-21 (or whatever her name is).
It looks far better on her.”

That was during Claremont’s brief run with the character, where he tried making her into a feral kid with a Psylocke obsession. It was highly embarrassing, and Kyle and Yost did their best to explain it all away when they took over New X-Men.

As for the redrawing of Superman, this doesn’t surprise me. He’s always been DC’s icon, and I can see them not wanting to mess with him, especially during the tightly-controlled Weisinger era (which these events were after, but had undoubtedly become company policy by then. I know Julie Schwartz wanted to change up the Man of Steel more, but was told to knock it off by the higher-ups). I do remember on JLA cover from the late 60s or early 70s that had Superman’s face redrawn by a regular Superman artist. Sadly, I don’t remember the issue number or the cover artist and redraw artist involved (I do remember it had the JLA lined up underneath a big laser cannon or something).

Mobelius Rodelius

June 1, 2007 at 8:28 am

Anyone else think that Toth’s image of Wonder Woman from that Superfriends poster is amazing? I think it’s the most appealing depiction of the character that I’ve ever seen. (An exception might be made for Lynda Carter, but she wasn’t a drawing.)

Dan (other Dan)

June 1, 2007 at 11:17 am

Ugh. The content of this post leaves an awful taste in my mouth. I view these as stark infringements on artistic integrity. I know them’s the breaks, but it doesn’t sit at all well with me.

If I’m not mistaken — and I don’t have my copy here with me — the original Toth Superman head can be seen on the BACK cover of the book. Can somebody peek and see if this is true?

Just discovered this Toth item myself the other day. Ha!

Also: This means those gorgeous Jack Kirby Fourth World hardcovers are going to be filled with blasphemies, aren’t they? Curses.

It’s a shame that the old DC pissed off over Kirby’s artwork, just as with the Alex Toth’s work too. It would be cool see The King’s real portrayal of the Man of Steel in the Jimmy Olsen Books.

That Kirby-headed Supes was monstrous.

yeah both Superman faces needed changes, but why wouldn’t they just as Toth to change his himself?

I guess I don’t understand the appeal of DC hiring Kirby to draw Superman if they really didn’t want him to. It makes it seem like more of a publicity stunt than anything else. Seeing this unfinished artwork makes me sad that it was never published. In the sketch the link takes you to, I love what he did with the S-shield. One might think that, perhaps, this version of the S-shield inspired Alex Ross’ version in Kingdom Come.

First thing I thought of Kirby Superman: “So easy a caveman could do it.”

That Kirby-headed Supes was monstrous.

You’re gonna have a bright future as a really, really, REALLY terrible editor for some comics company someday.

Yeah, the whole thing is kind of depressing. The Byrne/Cockrum thing is a little bit funny given how history was going to play out. (Although still pretty dumb. Did someone really think Byrne couldn’t draw the X-men? W…T…F!)

And re-drawing Kirby and Toth?

There’s stupid and then there’s don’t know yer ass from a hole in the ground clueless. If you had, like, even a basic understanding of the history of the medium, even back then, you’d know there’s things you just don’t mess with.

Gary Esposito

June 1, 2007 at 12:35 pm

I’d rather look at anyone’s artwork other than Kirby’s.
DC did the right move in this regard.

Thing is…. for Wolverine to be wearing the Fang costume the story is post X-Men 108 (where he aquires it from Fang). Which is Byrne’s first issue as regular X-Men penciller. Lovely vote of confidence in your new regular artist to get his stuff redrawn by the guy he’s just replaced.

Concerning the redraws of Kirby’s Supes, thanks, as it answers a question I’ve had for years. I’ve been hearing about this being done for a long time, but only in generalities. However, the sole Superman–by–Kirby that I’d ever seen was repros of FOREVER PEOPLE #1, where the Supes face just begs to be fixed. I wonder how that one got by?

Posts 27, 28 & 29: WTF?

I think the more recent animation of the Justice League / Unlimited have a wonderful Kirby dynamic to them.

Did they ‘fix’ Superman in Kirby’s 1980s Super Powers books?

Sad to see all the idiots on here bashing Jack Kirby the greatest artist in the history of comics. If it wasn’t for Kirby, comic books would not exist as they do today (or might have died out altogether by now).
Is it so hard to accept one of your beloved characters drawn in a style different than what you are used to? As far as it “not looking like Superman”, maybe you need to remember Superman is not real, and in fact pretend.
God, no wonder I hate most other comic book fans these days.

There’s stupid and then there’s don’t know yer ass from a hole in the ground clueless. If you had, like, even a basic understanding of the history of the medium, even back then, you’d know there’s things you just don’t mess with.

So bad art should get a pass based on name recognition? That way lies Team Youngblood. The world was spared Supercaveman and Yodeling Clark, and that’s good enough for me.

There was a time when “Romita’s Raiders” (and the “Jazzy” one himself) routinely redrew faces which were deemed “off model” in Marvel comics of all sorts.

For an example, see Amazing Spider-Man #151 – that cover is credited to Ross Andru, but it’s all Romita all the way. Len Wein was’t happy with the cover, and asked John to retouch it as he inked. In the course of things, Romita pretty much redrew the entire cover as he went. The basic composition was the same (Spidey in a tunnel close to getting drowned), but the water level was changed, the pose was tweaked… all on the fly and using a pen.

Reminds me, however, of a story from Christopher Priest about his time as Spider-Editor. Every month, the pages would come in and Peter Parker’s head would be square. Like a Dick Tracy villain. So he called the artist, failed to catch him at home, and left a message on the answering machine: “Stop drawing Peter Parker’s head so square.” Click. Goodbye. Simple enough.

The artist, though, freaked out. He misinterpreted the message, thought it was a huge critique of his art and that he was going to be dropped from the book. The artist calls Jim Shooter to ask what’s up, and Shooter tells Priest that you can’t just leave a message like that.

Anyway, the point is, one day Priest happens to see the penciled pages from the artist, and the head looks fine – not square at all. Turns out it was the inker who was tuning Pete into a blockhead all along. He calls the inker (who’d been in the business for much longer, and so knew the comment was meant as simple critique, not an attack on his style) and tells HIM to stop making Pete’s head so square. Next month, the problem was fixed.

What do you expect? This generation of comic consumers was raised on the swipes of Greg Land and his ilk. If it isn’t a tracing of photos from Swimsuit Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, or Maxim they don’t want it.

John Trumbull

June 1, 2007 at 2:55 pm

The big problem with the Al Plastino heads is that they look JARRINGLY out of place with the rest of Kirby’s art.

It would’ve made much more sense to just have the inker adjust the Superman heads slightly to more of a DC “house” look. Mike Royer could’ve done this. So could Wally Wood, Frank Giacoia, Neal Adams, or any number of the other inkers in DC’s employ at the time.

Looking at the Kirby Superman head, all it really needs is the spitcurl facing in the right direction (It should form a little “S” on his forehead), the hair parted on the other side, fewer creases in the forehead, and a cleft in the chin. Pretty minor adjustments, all things considered.

So bad art should get a pass based on name recognition? That way lies Team Youngblood. The world was spared Supercaveman and Yodeling Clark, and that’s good enough for me.

There are no situations now and there will never BE any situations in the span of eternity where comparing Alex Toth and Jack. Freaking. Kirby to Rob Liefeld is an effective way to make your point.

But even if it was bad art – and I don’t think it is – given how spectacularly good all the rest of their work for DC at the time period was, then, yes, they should be given a pass on the details. As a sign of respect.

It annoys me that DC didn’t feel that the myth of Superman was strong enough to survive different interpretations.

I guess I don’t understand the appeal of DC hiring Kirby to draw Superman if they really didn’t want him to. It makes it seem like more of a publicity stunt than anything else.

Yeah, you’d think that’d be lesson # on how to handle a new superStar creator: don’t just hand him over the iconic character and hope for the best.

That said, I think the editors made the right decision in the end. While it’s a remarkably handsome bit of work in and of itself, no, Kirby’s take is not Superman.

Meanwhile…this has nothing to do with any of the legends, but I got quite a bit of fun out of watching Wendy’s hair morph from (correct) black to blue-black to bright blue on those SuperFriends posters…

18.Mobelius Rodelius said …
Anyone else think that Toth’s image of Wonder Woman from that Superfriends poster is amazing? I think it’s the most appealing depiction of the character that I’ve ever seen.
——————

I agree 100% Wow, that’s good.

Flush it all away

June 1, 2007 at 4:26 pm

How did you think Kirby would draw Superman?

If you like Kirby faces, then you like all Kirby faces. His Superman looks like the rest of his faces: little pug nose, frowny mouth, somewhat malevolent eyes and eyebrows, etc. Be consistent, folks! If this style of face drawn on any number of Marvel characters leads you to call him a genius and a legend, the face on Superman shouldn’t lead to scorn and ridicule.

After reading these insipid comments, I’ve finally become that “old man” fan who cannot understand how clueless younger fans are.
Old at 35…..oy!

By the way, that “recent” change to the Super Friends cover dates back at least to 2001, where it was used on the first Super Friends trade paperback. See here: http://image.milehighcomics.com/istore/images/fullsize/83523897613.1.GIF

Clarification: That trade cover is actually by Alex Ross, but it is clearly based on the Alex Toth version shown in the poster, not the Curt Swan one.

If I’m not mistaken — and I don’t have my copy here with me — the original Toth Superman head can be seen on the BACK cover of the book. Can somebody peek and see if this is true?

You are correct. I didn’t mention that in the piece?

OOPS! My bad!

The poster was out in 2003. I guess I just considered that recent. :)

Did I totally space out and miss it in the piece before, or did you add that part in later? I feel like I’m going insane.

I have to say I agree with a previous poster….all i sse when I look at Kirby artwork is cavemen….No wonder Kamandi fit so well for him…

Did I totally space out and miss it in the piece before, or did you add that part in later? I feel like I’m going insane.

I mentioned it, but since you did not see it, I figured others probably did not as well, so I added the picture (courtesy of Evanier), so folks wouldn’t miss it.

For a more blatent example of Cockrums’ re-drawing of Byrne, check out the big Phoenix entrence panal.
It looks like Dave did the whole thing.

If you check out most Marvel covers from the 70′s you notice a lot of Romita faces on Heroes, The signiture Captain Marvel cover shot by Starlin has a very un-Stalin face.
Most covers with floating “reaction shot” heads were Romita heads dispite whoever did the main cover art.

fourthworlder

June 2, 2007 at 12:38 am

Totally agree with Flush It All, but then I do sign on as the Fourth Worlder.
Kirby was Kirby, and nothing but Kirby.
I’ve always been intrigued by his Superman pencils and wish they’d just been inked carefully and used. He said that he was trying to capture the power of the character, where Curt Swan et al had tried to humanize him. Kirby was old enough to remember and appreciate the older hero, from before the silver age, the alien strongman with a bit of a mean streak.

25.John said …
I guess I don’t understand the appeal of DC hiring Kirby to draw Superman if they really didn’t want him to. It makes it seem like more of a publicity stunt than anything else.

Actually, DC DIDN’T hire Kirby “to draw Superman”. Kirby was hired and took on the Jimmy Olsen title (which was, as I recall, one of DC’s lowest-selling titles), and Kirby was given the green-light to develop his own new titles, mostly the Fourth World titles and Demon.

As for the comments aimed at the Kirby “bashers”, sorry, guys, but Kirby’s artwork after his initial 1960s run at Marvel was CRAP. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and that’s mine. Kirby was certainly full of ideas but his artwork just fell short. (For the sake of “equal time”, I feel the same about Ditko. His “Dr Strange” was nothing short of a visual masterwork, but “Rom” and “Speedball” taught me how to read the comics’ words without looking at the pictures.)
Now, before I get “bashed” for my feelings on Kirby, I’d like to note that the bulk of my regular comics reading started around the time of the Mike Grell and Dave Cockrum runs on the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Cockrum and John Byrne runs on X-Men, so I’m not some “newbie” who doesn’t know “good art”. I’ve been reading comics pretty consistently since the early 1970s (before there were such things as “comics shops” and often one had to rely on the whims of the spinner-rack-filler at a convenience store) and have been exposed to a LOT of frightening artwork, some of which was by artists whose work I enjoyed elsewhere (Gene Colan was SUPERB on “Tomb of Dracula”; most of his other work–as in “Avengers” and “Wonder Woman”–should have never seen print). There were a few artists, like Frank Springer, whose work I’d not seen before (I can’t recall anything of his that I’d seen before “Invaders”) and, while I would’ve preferred another artist, it seemed to fit. Kirby, though, I’d much rather stick with the stuff he drew from 1962-1968. (What might seem so odd about this is that when I started reading comics regularly, most of the Kirby work I did see tended to be reprints of Kirby’s early to mid 1960s works–mostly reprints of his Fantastic Four, Thor and the Avengers comics. Compared to these works, his then-contemporary 1970s work just seemed less impressive.)

You have to remember, it’s a comicbook sin to admit that Jack Kirby was anything other than God – what one person calls “bashing” another calls “judging his art by standards.”

There are no situations now and there will never BE any situations in the span of eternity where comparing Alex Toth and Jack. Freaking. Kirby to Rob Liefeld is an effective way to make your point.

Except for this one, right here, where you specifically say you want editorial to NOT turn a critical eye to an artist’s work because of who he is.

But if Liefeld is the problem with that analogy, how about George Lucas instead? The guy who’s allowed to do whatever he wants without any oversight.

given how spectacularly good all the rest of their work for DC at the time period was, then, yes, they should be given a pass on the details. As a sign of respect.

They did respect Kirby – they respected him enough to leave him on a Superman book even after they realized he couldn’t draw Superman. He wasn’t dropped from the title, his pay wasn’t cut… they just had someone fix the faces.

It annoys me that DC didn’t feel that the myth of Superman was strong enough to survive different interpretations.

He’s certainly survived worse since then. But still, Superman is more important than Kirby.

Here’s a question that might make a difference: did DC ever tell Kirby that they didn’t like his Superman, and ask him to bring it more in line? I’m sure he could have. If his editor never told him to draw it differently, then yeah, it’s DC’s fault for overlooking a simple courtesy. If they asked him to draw it differently and he ignored them, then he’d have no reason to complain. Of course, the answer to that is probably lost to time.

If this style of face drawn on any number of Marvel characters leads you to call him a genius and a legend

Oh, don’t worry, it certainly doesn’t do that…

Three quick points:

1. Although Murray Boltinoff was the nominal editor on Jimmy Olsen during Kirby’s tenure, Jack was left to his own devices on the title… except for those faces.

2. When Kirby went to DC in ’70, he was offered his pick of their titles. Ethical fella that he was, he refused to deprive another artist of a steady gig. He only took Olsen because its regular artist, Pete Costanza, was retiring due to illness.

3. If what I heard is true, when the Olsen issues appear in the Fourth World Omnibus, the Plastino/Anderson art patches will be replaced with the original Kirby versions as recreated and inked by Steve Rude.

jackie treehorn

June 2, 2007 at 7:00 am

As far as “standards” go, If you don’t like how an artist draws, don’t hire him. Its a sign of disrespect to change someone’s work without giving them a chance to make the corrections themselves. If DC didn’t like how his Superman was rendered, they should have sent it back with instructions on how they did want him to do it. Kirby had enough of a work ethic I’m sure he would of made the corrections. To court an artist they professed to have such high regard for, only to take such an approach to the corrections was a poor choice on their part.
I also don’t understand the backlash against Jack Kirby. I respect an individual’s right to disagree with an otherwise popular opinion, but the attitudes expressed here seem to indicate this is more of disagreement for disagreements sake. I guess that is their right, but then it is my right to consider them petty and immature. Like or hate his work, to not acknowledge Kirby’s impact and contributions is just foolish.
As far as the statement that Superman is more important than Kirby, well that also is a sign of diminished intelligence. beloved characters such as Superman would not exist or endure without the work of the creators. Perhaps fans need to be reminded that these characters don’t exist in the real world. A trip outside of mom’s basement might help to correct these shortcomings.

One thing most people -including, sometimes, the comics creators themselves- tend to forget, is that American comics are NEVER the product of one person. Unless you write, edit, draw, ink and letter your own comic, the final product is never 100% yours. Even small details like the lettering can change the “feel” of the finished product. This is a business, we should understand how it works. But when something goes wrong (or right) we usually tend to blame one person. Was it right for DC to change Kirby’s Superman face or for Marvel to change Byrne’s X-Men? Yes. And the people working for them have to realize it and not complain over it. Now, if they were making some creator-owned work and someone else botched it, THEN people could howl about it.

3. If what I heard is true, when the Olsen issues appear in the Fourth World Omnibus, the Plastino/Anderson art patches will be replaced with the original Kirby versions as recreated and inked by Steve Rude.

That was definitely a possibility, Kurt, but I think they ultimately decided against that.

I’ve got an urban legend… “Spider-man and His Ammazing Friends” was loosely inspiried by Dennis O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow series from the 70′s.

True? False? I don’t know, but it’s tempting…

As far as the statement that Superman is more important than Kirby, well that also is a sign of diminished intelligence.

Just as an aside…I love how many of these posters claiming superior intelligence have to resort to childish name-calling to make their points.

Anyway. Not quite getting the creators-are-more-important argument in Superman’s case. Once a character has hit iconic status, they’re more valuable than *anybody* who works on them. It’s the character selling the product at that point, not the artist.

This is a business, we should understand how it works.

Mm-hm. You sign on as a commercial artist, you become a cog in a large – and largely indifferent – wheel. That’s why indie movements exist in the first place, because situations like this one are otherwise unavoidable.

Don’t you love it when you complain about something being uncool, and someone’s counterpoint is “Well, that’s the way it goes.”

No? Me neither. It’s pretty lazy debating, and shows that they don’t actually have a point/opinion of their own.

I wonder how many people here complaining about DC’s treatment of Kirby in the 70′s being unprofessional have actually worked in publishing, either on a work-for-hire basis or editing someone else on a work-for-hire basis? Not being bitchy, I’m sincerely curious. It seems very strange to me to decry someone else’s behavior as unprofessional unless you’re familiar with the standards of the publishing world even today, let alone in a specialized branch of publishing like comics in the 1970′s.

Obviously, Kirby didn’t like it (and I don’t blame him), but for all we know DC was motivated by deadline pressures (and so needed fixes done IMMEDIATELY), or a corporate concern for making Superman’s appearance as identical as possible across the line. It’s unethical behavior by modern standards, but there’s tons of examples in this very thread of redraws being common throughout both of the Big Two’s output well into the 80′s. So I’m not sure how DC was unprofessional about the matter. After all, it’s not like they knew then how revered Kirby would be now, or what modern expectations of creator-driven comics would be. As far as they knew, they were covering up for one of Kirby’s artistic weaknesses, and they may have expected him to be grateful!

A trip outside of mom’s basement might help to correct these shortcomings.

Probably would – so there’s a fresh batch of cookies cooling on the stove whenever you feel like coming upstairs.

Has anyone at all denied Kirby’s contributions? You don’t have to fawn over the man or think his art is the pinnacle of comic achievement to see that he played a huge part in the comics of the ’60s. This isn’t disagreeing for disagreement’s sake, it’s a simple acknowledgment that BEING Jack Kirby doesn’t protect the man from criticism.

As far as the statement that Superman is more important than Kirby, well that also is a sign of diminished intelligence.

Tell you what: I’m going to take this opportunity to be both petty and immature. So we’re working on the same ground.

“Wow, talk about needing to get out of the basement. When you’re ready to have a conversation with the grownups, we’ll be over here. Until then, you keep thinking like that.”

Whew. Okay, there with that out of the way, in what way does Kirby’s importance even come CLOSE to Superman’s? He didn’t invent the character. He didn’t even have a big, memorable role on the character’s development. In fact, it’s only recently that Kirby’s contribution – the Fourth World – has started to be brought back under the Superman umbrella. Kirby was one small link in a long chain of history, and not even a major or memorable one.

Siegel and Shuster might have a claim to being as important as Superman. Might. If you’re being generous. But Superman was around well before Kirby picked up his pencil, and he’s been around long after. Superman would, will and has endured without the work of Jack.

The world knows Superman – comic fans know Jack Kirby. He was a hired gun, paid to draw what DC wanted him to draw. If he didn’t like what they did with his art, he didn’t have to keep handing it in.

Yes, DC should have told him how they wanted Superman drawn – like I already said. But they had no obligation to leave his art intact. The word balloons changed shape, too – are we going to talk next about what a huge betrayal that is? Even today, it’s the company’s right to do whatever they want with their property. Outside of self-publishing, there are no guarantees for anyone…

Don’t you love it when you complain about something being uncool, and someone’s counterpoint is “Well, that’s the way it goes.”

No? Me neither. It’s pretty lazy debating, and shows that they don’t actually have a point/opinion of their own.

Not sure who this is addressed to, but just to clarify in case: No, I don’t think it’s cool. I actually have a whole lot of opinions on that subject, thanks. Ask anyone who’s ever debated music with me. :)

The point I was making is that any commercial artist goes into the job knowing – or should – that this kind of thing is going to happen. Did it violate Kirby’s artistic integrity? Yeah, absolutely, especially (as yo go re mentioned) if they somehow led him to believe he was free to experiment as he liked.

Thing is, though, he’d already more or less sold out. As a business, DC has a right to make decisions that will affect their bottom line. Kirby was valuable to them – demonstrated by how much freedom they gave him otherwise – but Superman was and is exponentially more so.

Rohan Williams

June 3, 2007 at 3:53 am

It’s worth noting, Yo Go, that Kirby played a huge part in more than just the comics of the ’60s, and that Superman definitely wasn’t created “well before Kirby picked up a pencil.”

He co-created Captain America in the ’40s, after all, and pumped out any number of fantastic monster, adventure and war comics in that decade and the next.

Having said that, I don’t think that should put him beyond editorial edict either, and it sounds like redrawing was quite common at the time.

I read through all these comments, and I had two thoughts. First, how old are you folks? I’m not trying to insult anyone. I’m just yet again in awe of the internet’s power to let people of all ages, sexes, and locations argue with a vitriol usually reserved for real life.

My second thought – hey, you can love or hate Jack Kirby, John Romita, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, etc. That’s gotta be your call. But as a fan of comic books, I dislike the thought of details being redrawn if it’s not going to be credited. If my book says “Drawn by Jack Kirby”, I want it Drawn by Jack Kirby. If somebody else was doing something on that art, it should be credited in the book.

Of course, DC’s corporate attitude doesn’t make an honesty a priority…

Can we handle the truth? This is a tough one. Do we really want to know who really played on the Monkees and Sex Pistols albums? Or who did most of Michaelangleos ceiling or who embellished Kirby’s sketches? Or do we simply tell ourselves, “it’s all good”.

While I understand DC’s decision to alter Kirby’s faces to suit the house style, what frustrates me more is the changes in the facial expression itself. In this instance, it’s not just a case of altering the face to suit the house style and to maintain a uniform look for the character. Pastino has actually completely changed Kirby’s expression, and in doing so has altered the meaning of the panel itself.

In the Kirby original, Superman has an ominous look (furrowed brown, frown, darkened eyes), mainly because the information he’s imparting relates to prophesies of destruction. Yet in the altered image, Supes is smiling. It’s only one panel, but it completely alters the character’s reaction to the story surrounding the panel as well as going against the character’s established nature and personality.

Superman definitely wasn’t created “well before Kirby picked up [his] pencil.”

“…to draw Superman” is the implied second half of that.

When I was drawing “Punisher War Journal”, we had a miniseries within the series called “Dead Man’s Hand” which x-ed over with Nomad and Daredevil. In the 3 issues I drew, Spidey villain Silvermane kept popping up as comic relief in the vane of the bikers from “Every Which Way But Loose” where he’d show up, get run over by a truck, etc., and by the end of the series, he was supposed to be all “cobbled up” with replacement parts. I was in Marvels offices one day and decided to show off copies of the pencils to Danny Fingeroth-the Spider-Man line editor and he became extremely upset with the fact that “nobody had cleared Silvermanes’ appearance” with the Spidey office(him) and the shoddy treatment of S-Mane.
Lo and behold, from the seconfd book on, Silvermane was drawn out of the story and they actually threw Nomad into a couple of his spots which makes NO sense storywise(badly, badly drawn too!) Check it out sometimeno wonder I’m out of comics!

Two things get easily missed in this discussion about Kirby:

* Fantastic, dynamic, forward-looking, and full of ideas Kirby’s art may have been, but “pretty” isn’t a word that gets attached very often to his art, especially his faces. Kirby purists would always prefer to see the art as-drawn, but the general populace would usually prefer to have the art “prettied” up, brought in line with what the expect from similar product (ie, the rest of DC’s line).

* The comics world was a lot different 35 years ago than it is today. We are much more aware of and driven by fans and the desires of fans, and much more in tune with holding to the creator’s vision. Today, it’s very unlikely that such retouching would occur. At the time (and with Jack on the other coast and no FedEx or computers to hasten changes and corrections), adjusting the art to match the model sheets was the right thing to do, based on the business models and such in place then.

Decrying the actions of decades ago based on how the industry works today is ignorant. (Being saddened by those action, that’s a different matter.)

Anybody know how FOREVER PEOPLE #1′s cover got by the powers–that–be at DC? For all the years that I’ve been hearing about redrawn Kirby/Superman, that was the only one I’d actually seen until this CBUL entry, and it cries out for help. That aside, I must admit that I’ve always felt that while Jack Kirby was a great idea man, he just couldn’t execute them worth a damn himself. His best work was at Marvel in the 1960s, and Stan Lee was deeply involved in the plotting, doing the scripting, and choosing the inkers. I’ve also held a similar opinion about Steve Ditko, except he DID have a good period on his own, at DC in the late ’60s (BEWARE, THE CREEPER; THE HAWK & THE DOVE).

“* Fantastic, dynamic, forward-looking, and full of ideas Kirby’s art may have been, but “pretty” isn’t a word that gets attached very often to his art, especially his faces. Kirby purists would always prefer to see the art as-drawn, but the general populace would usually prefer to have the art “prettied” up, brought in line with what the expect from similar product (ie, the rest of DC’s line).”

I’m sure that’s what DC thought.

If I were a comics fan of the time, I’d consider this an insult to my intelligence.

“The comics world was a lot different 35 years ago than it is today. We are much more aware of and driven by fans and the desires of fans, and much more in tune with holding to the creator’s vision. Today, it’s very unlikely that such retouching would occur. At the time (and with Jack on the other coast and no FedEx or computers to hasten changes and corrections), adjusting the art to match the model sheets was the right thing to do, based on the business models and such in place then.”

Well, yeah. Not disagreeing. I’m just sayin’ that those particular practices were helluva dumb.

After the “Kirby is Coming” house ads, and given the general sales of Jimmy Olsen at the time, (I think. There’s an Urban Legend that this was DC’S lowest selling title.) it’s fairly safe to say that the major draw on the book at this time was Kirby’s art.

From THAT POV, it doesn’t make much sense to change it.

(Also: By and large I think that Kirby’s Forth World books were much stronger than his average work for Marvel. I’m not arguing that Fantastic Four was as good as superhero comics have been ever for nigh-on two years, but the rest of the Lee/Kirby creations fall well below that standard. And many are downright bad. (See: Early issues of X-men.)

Rohan Williams

June 6, 2007 at 12:37 am

Dude, the early issues of X-Men are FANTASTIC. The X-Men fight carnies, for one thing, and that’s a one-way trip to awesome right there.

Today, it’s very unlikely that such retouching would occur.

Except to John Byrne in his recent run on Superman

Personally, I think the redrawing-Kirby thing was a bad decision. It was dishonest to both the readers (promising Kirby and giving someone else) and Kirby himself (since it didn’t seem like he was told this would happen). Yes, DC legally had the right to do so, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

Ununnilium: “…promising Kirby and giving someone else….”

Absurd! Yes Superman’s face was redrawn but nothing else, or at least that’s the implication here. And being that the series was JIMMY OLSEN, I’d bet that Supes didn’t appear all THAT often. Keep things in accurate perspective, for Pete’s sake!

Ted, I’m going to assume you weren’t being sarcastic up there and answer your objection. Superman did, in fact, appear in every issue of “Jimmy Olsen” that Kirby wrote/drew. In fact, he sometimes got more panel time than Jimmy himself did. You might want to read the actual issues before commenting on them.

Also–Brian, I’d always heard that many of the Jimmy Olsen faces were redrawn as well. Is that true?

Jonathan Miller: I was not “being sarcastic up there” and stand corrected. Didn’t—and still don’t—have access to those stories, and just went with my knowledge of the level of Superman appearances in JO stories before and after. As far as Jimmy’s faces being redrawn too, a feature in one of the Super-Spec format SUPERMAN FAMILY issues reprinted drawings of Jimmy by various artists, and Kirby’s version looked as off as the Supes on the FOREVER PEOPLE cover I mentioned earlier, so I’d say no.

I’d like to add one other redrawn face instance here: when a three–issue run of the DR. 13 feature in GHOSTS was a direct sequel to the Spectre stories by Fleisher and Aparo in ADVENTURE, the character of Earl Crawford was obviously redrawn, and a look at one of Aparo’s renderings will show you he looked too much like 13 for both to appear in the same story, so somebody—I suspect Vince Colletta, but am just guessing—redrew Earl, it being Terry’s strip. Why it wasn’t caught earlier, I don’t know.

When I wrote, “Why it wasn’t caught earlier…” I was referring to the resemblance between Crawford (from ADVENTURE) and Terrence Thirteen. Sorry for my ambiguity.

To Brian: You must be kidding. I wouldn’t call the change for the poster an improvement. I had never seen Supes’ face drawn as creepy as it was in the poster. Even if I was a Superfriends fan, that face would prevent me from wanting to put that poster in my bedroom…

Yeah! Those guys, Kirby and Toth are terrible artists. What the hell are they doing in comics! They´re lousy and is people like them that comics get a bad reputation!

Hello, I’m the boy that always arrives late to posts! Well, I’m an amateur drawist and on one hand I think that I would feel deeply offended for such a change in my drawings, but for the other hand….as a comic reader… both original faces were creepy….
And, I also think that the Tothn depiction of Wonder Woman is fabulous, She looks younger and cuter

Hey, everybody! I hate Jack Kirby’s art! That makes me cool and unique!

Kirby is probably the most overrated comic book artist ever. Not because he’s BAD, mind you; but because NO ONE could possibly be as good as the Kirby fanboys think Kirby was. And, c’mon, be honest with yourself for just a second, MarkAndrew pretty much nailed it above: Kirby had a problem with faces.

The Superman above is actually pretty good… I mean, yeah, I’d have an easier time believing it was Bruce Banner wearing Superman’s cape than Superman himself, but at least he could pass for human. Unlike, say, Turpin, whom Kirby generally drew looking like he had been in some kind of horrible industrial accident. For some characters like Desaad, it worked. For others… well, you wondered how they went to the grocery store without people screaming and running away in panic. (To be fair, they probably did for Desaad also. But he would have liked that.)

As noted by other commenters above, redrawing Kirby deprives readers of Kirby! Kirby fans buy Kirby comics because we want to see Kirby art. Don’t tease us with bait-and-switch tactics!

Fortunately a few unaltered Kirby Superman faces survived here and there, like in a DC Presents where Superman met the Challengers (the art duties in that ish were shared between Kirby and Toth, funnily enough!), or in Super Powers (based on the Super Friends cartoon).

I think Kirby’s style is pretty. It’s rugged and square, but also graceful and skilled. I didn’t see that right away, when I started reading comics; it became more beautiful to me the more I understood about comics art (and art in general). Not only could Kirby make anything real more beautiful than in reality, but he could also draw anything imaginary, no matter how wild or strange.

I liked Steve Ditko’s art on Rom, but I think that was partly due to the inker cleaning up some of Ditko’s more exaggerated and cartoonish aspects. When I try to read other things by Ditko I don’t see the same level of smoothness and control that I saw on Rom.

Anybody want to see Kirby’s Superman in all its glory or horror, check out DC Comics Presents #84, printed in August, 1985. It’s Superman teamed up with the Challengers of the Unknown, although it’s actually a story written around the Toth-drawn story that never appeared in the Digest-sized Adventure Comics #498.

As for the Kirby debate, his style certainly takes some getting used to, especially anything 70′s or later. Kirby’s style isn’t great for subtle effects or delicate emotions, but for raw power and action. Who could have pulled off the New Gods, The Demon, or OMAC like Kirby? Likewise, Ditko’s increasingly cartoony art doesn’t seem to fit in well with the more realistic superhero work of the late 70′s and 80s, but again, I always liked Ditko and appreciated the change of pace when he did the occasionally Hulk story, or his Machine Man work (ironically, Ditko came after Kirby on Machine Man). My favorite Ditko series is still Shade, the Changing Man.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate more realistic artists. I also love Neal Adams, Mike Grell, John Buscema, Michael Golden, etc. Ultimately, a lot of it seems to have to do with matching the appropriate artist and style with the story being told. And if the artist is also the writer, then you’ve got an idiosyncratic story that goes with idiosyncratic art. Both Kirbv and Ditko came up with some pretty great ideas, but I think they both benefited from having someone else script their plots.

Here’s a redraw that I always wondered about: The last issue of Captain Marvel (and I’m going entirely by memory here) was by George Tuska but had random panels redrawn or inked by Dave Cockrum. I always wondered about that…

You’re gonna have a bright future as a really, really, REALLY terrible editor for some comics company someday.

Sad to see all the idiots on here bashing Jack Kirby the greatest artist in the history of comics. If it wasn’t for Kirby, comic books would not exist as they do today (or might have died out altogether by now).
Is it so hard to accept one of your beloved characters drawn in a style different than what you are used to? As far as it “not looking like Superman”, maybe you need to remember Superman is not real, and in fact pretend.
God, no wonder I hate most other comic book fans these days.

As far as the statement that Superman is more important than Kirby, well that also is a sign of diminished intelligence. beloved characters such as Superman would not exist or endure without the work of the creators. Perhaps fans need to be reminded that these characters don’t exist in the real world. A trip outside of mom’s basement might help to correct these shortcomings.

Yeah! Those guys, Kirby and Toth are terrible artists. What the hell are they doing in comics! They´re lousy and is people like them that comics get a bad reputation!

Hey, everybody! I hate Jack Kirby’s art! That makes me cool and unique!

Gotta love the maturity of the Kirby worshipers. I guess some people think, for some reason, that throwing childish insults and mocking anyone with a different opinion makes them more right than providing arguments.

Just so you know it, I hate Kirby’s art, too. The characters look like cavemen in it.

But even if it was bad art – and I don’t think it is – given how spectacularly good all the rest of their work for DC at the time period was, then, yes, they should be given a pass on the details. As a sign of respect.

Bullcrap. Just because Kirby is considered one of the greatest comic book artists/writers/creators/whatever in history, that doesn’t give DC the obligation to accept substandard work from him. DC’s job is to provide the highest quality comics possible, not making their readers go through poor quality work “as a sign of respect”.

“Sad to see all the idiots on here bashing Jack Kirby the greatest artist in the history of comics. If it wasn’t for Kirby, comic books would not exist as they do today (or might have died out altogether by now).”

Amen.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives