FANTASTIC FOUR SPECIAL EDITION #1 May 1984
John Byrne original artist
|In the transitional period between and before both Marvel and DC Comics realized they could happily reprint their most popular archival material in pricey hardcover collections and sell it to deep-pocketed fans in the nation's series of then-burgeoning comics shops, they first gathered some of their most requested work in double-sized comics printed in the then-trendy Baxter paper format. For those of you with short memories, this particular stock was far thicker than any that had been seen previously in comics, and thus allowed for crisper reproduction and brighter, far more vibrant colors.|
|Mostly, this briefly popular format was utilized
to reissue fairly recent runs of titles by
fan-favored creators such as Batman by Englehart,
Rogers and Austin, Warlock and Captain Marvel
by Jim Starlin, Conan by Thomas and Smith,
and pretty much ANYTHING illoed by the ever
in demand Neal Adams! Early sixties material
went largely ignored, but the tale told in
FF ANNUAL #1--already the subject of our
previous two entries of "Classic Cover
Redos"--was a decided exception. And
without knowing any of the salient details,
I'll just bet the man steering the ship for
the Once and Always World's Greatest Comics
Magazine in those days, writer/artist John
Byrne, MAY'VE had a thing or two to say about
the decision to re-release a glitzed up version
of that 1963 Lee/Kirby landmark. That's cuz
John added 4--or was it 5?--new pages to
the trend-setting early epic...
No, it WASN'T the meet-and-greet scene I'd long desired to see in print, unfortunately. I suppose I'll NEVER know exactly how Subby stumbled across his long-lost brethren and sisteren, but Jocular John did take his rare opportunity to flesh out Namor's background, expanding on the events surrounding the courtship of the adorable Atlantean Princess Fen and cuddly Captain Leonard McKenzie, followed by the subsequent birth of bouncing baby Namor. What Byrne did, y'see, was to take the panels on the 18th page of the original story, and work them into a five page sequence falling smack-dab between the still-numbered pages of 17 and 19!?! Those eight panels were redrawn to resemble the originals as much as possible, and they were placed throughout the new section, fitting in where best they could. Similarly, Byrne did his best to ape the vintage Kirby/Ayers art style for the sake of visual continuity. Now, John's never had difficulty drawing in the shadow of the master when called upon to do so, but Ayers' thick, loose, somewhat slapdash inking line was another matter altogether. Doing his best to match art that was undoubtedly churned out hurriedly in it's day, Byrne produced drawings that just didn't seem to merit the fancy-schmancy paper they were being printed on!?! But--had he embellished the supplemental sequence with his standard sharp line, then it REALLY would've looked out of place!?! Yikes! The old rock and a hard place, indeed...
No matter. Almost two decades on, the book makes for a curious footnote to the hallowed FF saga. Normally, this wouldn't be a book I'd ever consider producing a redo of on my own--no offense meant, John, but I generally reserve the process for books I grew up on--except when, as in this case, I'm called on to whip up a commission for a paying customer!! And therein hangs yet another tale...
The primary reason I was called upon to mimic John Byrne's version of Jack Kirby's original version is that the fellow who employed me to do so actually OWNS the Byrne original!?! Now, this isn't the first time this has happened--several other folks, in possession of notable covers, have plunked down good money to have me come in and offer up my own cockeyed take on their beloved illustrations. It's sort of a Bizarro version of those omnipresent "Before and After" comparison ads, y'know? Mainly because, in each of THESE instances, the "After" image is the one that looks off, NOT the "Before", which of course, is just the opposite of the way these things normally go!?! But hey, in the words of Namor's daddy, whatever floats your boat!...
Maybe I'll clue you into other instances where my art dubiously hangs side by side on the walls of collectors who chose to both cherish AND mock their collectibles simultaneously, but I thought this particular situation was worth posting, since in this instance--as our friend Lionel might croon--it's one, two, three times a cover!...
(...And those folks amongst you who might own a classic cover or two, stop and think about the notion of purchasing a Hembeckized version of said image!?! Amaze your friends! Frighten your family! Baffle your accountant! Contact me and I'm sure we can work something out--and do it now, before you stop and think about the idea a little TOO much!?!...)
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