Friday, January 31, 2014

Covers: Il Mitico Thor #1

I already showed the Italian cover for I Fantastici Quattro #1, taken from a T-shirt logo. At the same time Editoriale Corno lauched "Il Mitico Thor", with stories taken first from Journey into Mystery(#83-#125) and then from The Mighty Thor (#126-).

Once again for the Italian cover Editoriale corno did not use the original one, from Journey into Mystery #83

Instead they published this one, with Thor on a white background

This is clearly not from Kirby. Where does it come from?

From here: Silver Surfer #4

Did you know that? ;)

Dario Bressanini

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thor first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83, original unretouched cover

Thor appeared for the first time in Journey into Mystery #83.
The cover of that comic, drawn by Jack Kirby, is quite famous

It is not widely known however that the first version drawn by Kirby was modified before being published. Here are both side by side. The unretouched cover has been published in the volume "Origins of Marvel Comics", by Stan Lee (1974).

My guess is that the original version was rejected because it was considered too "cluttered"

Dario Bressanini

Monday, January 27, 2014

Covers: unretouched Thor #148

Sometimes the changes made by Marvel Comics to the covers were substantial. Take a look at the printed US cover of Thor #148

And now the unretouched one printed in Italy on il Mitico Thor #47

And here side by side

Which one do you prefer?

Dario Bressanini

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Fantastici Quattro #2-#10

Issue #2 of I Fantastici Quattro featured the last part of the skrull story that began in FQ #1, and then FF #3. Here are the covers

To fill the 48-pages issue Editoriale Corno added two short stories from Tales to Astonish #39 and #41. For Fantastic Four #3 Jack Kirby prepared another cover, which was rejected.

FQ #3 contained both FF #4 and FF #5. The Italian cover was taken from FF #4

FQ #4

the cover of the italian edition usually did not have balloons, unlike the original one

FQ #5

FQ #6

FQ #7

In the italian version, Stan and Jack were deleted to make space for the title of the book

FQ #8

FQ #9

FQ #10

Dario Bressanini

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Covers: unretouched Avengers #1

Here is another example of a retouched cover: Jack Kirby's Avengers #1

On the left the US version while on the right the one printed in Italy (again as an internal splash page). Can you spot the difference (apart from the deleted balloons and the recoloring)?

In the US cover the right side of Thor's mantle was shortened

The original cover has been published in the reprint series Marvel Masterworks and in other places

Interestingly the Ad published in other comics books of that period used the original cover

Dario Bressanini

Friday, January 24, 2014

Covers: unretouched Fantastic Four #2

Since I Fantastici Quattro (FQ) had 48 pages to fill, with no advertisement, the Italian publisher frequently packed two issues of Fantastic Four (FF) in the same Italian issue. This was the case with FF #2: the first 14 pages were published into FQ #1, the rest in FQ #2 along with FF #3. The original FF #2 cover was not published, but was used instead, recolored as usual, at the beginning of FQ #2 as a kind of splash page to recap what happened the issue before.

Now the interesting part: Marvel Comics used to make a film/photostat of the original inked cover, and store it away. It was not uncommon however that after that Marvel (even Stan Lee himself) would ask for modifications of the original drawing.

Take a look at the published cover of FF #2

The cover printed in an internal page by Editoriale Corno was slightly different: (here on the left)

The cover received by the Italian publisher Editoriale Corno was different from the one published in the original Fantastic Four #2. Notably Johnny Storm, in the US version has flames around the body while in the Italian version there are no flames. At first I thought that Editoriale Corno simply did not like the flames and erased them. However it turns out that this is the original, unpublished, cover of FF #2.

A proof of this can be found in the Official Marvel Index to the Fantastic Four, published by Marvel Comics in 1985, where the unaltered covered can be found

The baloon of the Human Torch saying "My flame is out" was obviously deleted from the printed US version (since the flame was on), and from the Italian version since the baloons on the covers were always erased.

Is this the only unaltered cover published in Italy, directly from the film/photostat, that is different from the original US one? Not at all! Stay tuned ;)

Dario Bressanini

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Restoring comics 101 - Adjusting colors (1)

It is time to address the colors of the scanned picture. This is mandatory for all old comics, often having faded colors and yellowed or browned paper. The ultimate goal would be to restore the art to the state it was a minute after it was printed. It is impossible to do this for many old comics, for reasons that we will explain, but we can do a pretty good job. Let’s see how.

There are many “philosophies” when it comes to retouch colors on old comics, and various “recipes”, from very simple and automatic to very involved and complicated. With time you learn to judge what is the best for your situation, depending on the goal you want to achieve.

Before continuing: it is always a good idea, instead of permanently modifying the pixels of our image, to use nondestructive modifications. In Photoshop this means using adjustment layers, so that if you change your mind you can always go back. In the following, for simplicity, I will work directly on the pixels. If you do so remember to save the unmodified picture and work on a copy.

Automatic quick&dirty

If the comic is not very old and it is not dirty or damaged the simplest thing to do (but by no means the best) is to use some automatic command from your favorite photo editing software.

In PS CS5 using Image>Auto Tone

Or Image>Auto Color

The other Auto command, Image>Auto Contrast, is not useful in this case since it will increase the contrast equally in all color channels (Red, Green and Blue) in the same way so that the colors will not be modified.

However, for serious work with old comics there are better way to keep the color adjustment under control.

Adjusting levels “by eye”

In Photoshop open the Levels command (Control-L or Image>Adjustments>Levels)

Note that both the black and the white of this panel are rather dark gray and light gray. In fact look at the histogram (the RGB channel): the luminosity levels go to zero well before going to the true black (0, to the far left of the histogram), or to the true white (255, to the far right of the histogram)

By the way: if you click the Options… button a new panel will appear showing the Auto commands we used above

Quick for the web

If we want to clean an image to be used on the web we usually want white to be pure white, (255,255,255) in RGB lingo, and black to be pure black (0,0,0)

For a quick fix you can use the black and white eyedroppers

Start with the black: grab the black eyedropper

and click in a place you believe should be pure black. You can click in different places until you are satisfied.

Now the black is “really black”. Repeat the procedure with the white eyedropper tool

and here the quick result

Remember that while you are inside the Levels command, by pressing the Alt key the Reset button will appear, and you can go back to your original image inside the Levels command and restart working from there.

Here is the final result

While adjusting the white it is tempting to use it to “whiten” dirty spots on the yellowed paper. Beware that by exaggerating you can end up with crappy colors like this

Even worse, if you work with old comics with very yellowed pages like this

you will end up with completely off colors

How to avoid this? next time :)

Dario Bressanini