How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
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”
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jack Kirby was okay with DC redrawing his Superman faces.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
In a nice twist, recently, DC released a poster of that cover…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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