Friday, December 16, 2011


And now for something very different. Several years back, Nick Simon, creator of the much-loved Silver Age Marvel website, suggested I might take some of the really bad covers of the early-70's and "fix" them. I did, and posted a while slew of them at my own website. (Later, some of them turned up at the SA Marvel site as well.) Apart from the JIMMY OLSEN "Fourth World" covers, I haven't done many "Fantasy" cover versions lately, but I got inspired to do one this week.

I go to the Heritage Auctions site a lot to find large, hi-res scans of covers and original art. Never know what might turn up there, and one of the things that I ran across recently was the original art for-- of all things-- SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #3 (Dec'75).

A bit of background: SVTU was the brainchild of Roy Thomas, who, after helping to sink SUB-MARINER (putting Atlantis in a coma, poisoning Prince Namor so he needed to wear what looked like a "biker" outfit to breath air out of water, tacking "THE SAVAGE" onto the logo), decided it might be fun to once more dredge up another bad idea-- having Namor team-up with Dr. Doom. I don't know about you, but anyone who's read FANTASTIC FOUR #6 ("Captives of the Deadly Duo") should know this was a bad idea. You can't TRUST Dr. Doom!

It was a rough ride. The first issue, a GIANT--SIZE, was tossed onto the schedule without actually having a creative team available, resulting in 10 pages by John Buscema & Joe Sinnott, and the rest of the double-sized book a collection of reprints.  (Roy had also pulled this stunt with GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS #1-- if it "worked" once...)

GIANT #2 was a feature-length story with art by-- of all people-- Mike Sekowsky (formerly of DC's JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA) and Sam Grainger. To say it was strange-looking is putting it mildly. But that was nothing. When the GIANTs were cancelled, the book continued with a 2nd #1, this time a regular-sized comic.  That "first" issue had 3 different pencillers in it! George Tuska (who'd done 3 issues of SUB-MARINER right near the end), Bill Everett (Subby's creator-- who had DIED a couple years earlier-- where DID his 3 "Dr. Doom" pages come from, anyway??), and, EVEN stranger (no, really!), George Evans (perhaps best known for his work on EC war books-- I think). Inks were provided by Fred Kida and Frank Springer. An ecclectic issue, to say the least.

Issues #1-3 comprised a 3-part story which brought back several long-running villains from Subby's previous book-- Attuma (first introduced in FANTASTIC FOUR #33, later adapted as one of the 1967 F.F. cartoons from Hanna-Barbera), Tiger Shark, and Dr. Dorcas (a "Dr. Zarkov" lookalike, only evil). Typically, after getting the ball rolling, Roy was too busy to continue, and this 3-parter was handed off to Len Wein (editor) and Tony Isabella (writer). The 2nd issue had art by Sal Buscema (who'd done quite a lot of issues of Subby's book in the late 60's) and Kida again on inks. Abruptly, the final chapter of the 3-parter saw Marv Wolfman take over as editor, Jim Shooter step in as writer (his FIRST work for Marvel, I believe), George Evans (again on pencils) and Jack Abel (on inks). With so many people coming and going, it's amazing this thing ever got past the first few issues before being cancelled.

Which brings me to the cover of #3.  It was, possibly, the FIRST work for Marvel by Ed Hannigan, who would go on to do a lot of fabulous covers for both Marvel and DC, actually becoming DC's cover editor in the early 80's, a job similar to what Carmine Infantino did for them in the late 60's. Inks were by Joe Sinnott, so it looked SHARP. There were a few problems, though... For one thing, the design was AWFUL. It reminds me of some of those multitude of Golden Age covers from Marvel where you just have characters all over the place, jumping around and fighting. For another, the COLORING was awful. Everything's too bright, there's too many highlights on everything, including Doom's cape (sounds like it was decades ahead of its time). And, if you let your eye be drawn to the brightest spot on the page, there's NOTHING THERE.

This is probably the longest I've ever talked about one single cover. Time for the art... starting with the raw scan of my own copy, after it's been rotated and cropped...

Here we see my "restoration".  Brightness and contrast adjusted, and art "filled in" on all 4 edges, due to the actual cover not being properly rotated when it was cut! As I attempt to do with ALL my "restorations", the colors you see here are as ACCURATE to what the real book looks like as I could possible make it (apart from cleaning up dirt and printing errors). I don't know why everything seems so faded. It happens.

Now... here's the scan of the original art I found at Heritage Auctions. Note that the logo was pasted down in a differet position than how it was actually printed, and there's some minor changes to the art as well. On the published cover, there's a tentacle wrapped around one of Namor's legs.

Next up, a work-in-progress version, where I copied, resized and moved around different areas of the art. I decided to change the color balance on these, so I could see what the heck I was looking at!  It helped.

And finally... my own RE-COLORING job. I decided to completely ignore the original color job, in favor of something that might actually "work".

Once more taking a tip from Frank Frazetta and Stan Goldberg, my intention was to make the background dark, moody and almost monotone, with even the machinery sharing different tones of the same color. By comparison, by adding even more color shading to the already-bright colors on Namor, your eye is drawn to HIM, rather than a BLANK spot Hannigan left in the almost-center of the page. But the big change was making Attuma, who I felt was drawn in a very dramatic pose, TWICE the size he was on the original design, so he could serve as a real "FOCUS" or anchor of the entire design. In order to fit him in that way, I then had to move both Namor and Tiger Shark up a bit, which was fine as there was too much empty space between Namor and the logo anyway.
On top of all this, I decided that overlong 1st word balloon had to go (I'd almost bet Roy wrote the cover copy here-- either that, or Marv did, as he was also known for going way overboard on text). I simplified the 2nd balloon (and changed the color of the text while I was at it), and removed the entire blurb in the lower-right. The latter required quite a lot of additional art to replace whatever was originally UNDER the blurb. I also had to add some detail in the middle when moving the upper-left section of the art resulted in some blank space in the middle.
Oh yeah... doing some research, I found that Attuma was almost never colored consistently between his various appearances. In this case,  he didn't even match the way he looked inside this issue. Worse, someone (Hannigan? Sinnott?) drew the "scales" he had on his pants ON HIS ARMS, when inside, he had bare arms, as always.  Sheesh. All fixed now. Anyway, for his helmet, gloves and chestplate, I took the colors from the 1st comic I ever saw him in-- F.F. ANNUAL #3 (1965)!  "Today we conquer a world!"

All this has left me wondering... anybody out there know what Ed Hannigan is up to these days? I haven't seen his name listed in any comics since the mid-80's. I might as well add a personal note here... The day, back in 1977, when I played hooky from work to go to NYC to visit the Marvel office (foolishly, without bothering to make an appointment in advance!!), Ed was the guy they sent out to talk to me. He was nice enough to not only give me some of his time, but also to take me on a TOUR of the offices-- which is how I got to meet John Romita, who was sitting at his drawing board, working on the still-new SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip!

Thanks, Ed! I hope he sees this. I know he got MUCH better after this cover.

Artwork Copyright (C) Marvel Comics  /
Article, Restoration & New Color by Henry R. Kujawa.

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