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Do Marvel Masterworks Contain Comic Stories Redrawn By Modern Artists?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and seventy-eighth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false.

As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.

NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I’ll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!

Marvel Masterworks has stories recreated by modern artists

Basically True

The amazing comic book colorist, José Villarrubia, recently wrote about this on his Facebook page and I thought it was interesting enough to spotlight here, because I don’t know how much people really know about it (although my buddy Daniel Best has been raging against this thing for over a decade now).

It boils down to this. Marvel, when putting together their Marvel Masterworks reprint series, often does not have the original files for them to reprint. They do have a goodly amount of them (since Marvel obviously reprinted a number of these books over the years), but not all of them.

Therefore, the solution Marvel came up with is to hire artists like Michael Kelleher to, in effect, trace over the original drawings and reproduce them (I have no idea how Kelleher actually specifically does it, and I believe he has long since stopped using actual paper, as everything’s done through a computer now) so that they are, in effect, an exact copy.

It’s sort of the same premise of carbon paper. Carbon paper reproduces the original and, in a way, so does Kelleher.

Here are two Jack Kirby covers…

And here are Kelleher’s recreations of those covers..

The amazing Marvel Masterworks fan site had an interview with longtime Marvel Masterworks freelance editor Cory Sedlmeier and he was very open with his answer, so it is not like Marvel is running away from this thing…

#5: What percentage of art restoration in the Masterworks needs to be redrawn by hand by folks like Mike Kelleher? (Amazing job he’s doing, by the by.) Is it on the order of a page or two per volume? More?

CORY: I couldn’t give a direct percentage across the Masterworks. It’s something that varies widely. The Golden Age books are all fully reconstructed from copies of the original books because none of that material exists in Marvel’s archives any longer. Back in the ’40s no one could have guessed that almost 70 years later people would be pining for these stories!

That said, any of you Golden Age collectors out there that have original Timely issues, we’re always, always, always on the hunt for materials. If you might be willing to lend a hand, please contact me at cmsedlmeier@marvel.com.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Atlas Era has proven to be either completely hit, or completely miss so far. These issues have either been intact in the film library and in great shape, or completely missing. For instance, Marvel Boy #1 and #2 were found and in sparkling condition (the earliest finds from our film warehouse yet, which is not to say there isn’t earlier material, we just haven’t gotten around to reprinting it yet); however, Astonishing #3 and #4 were completely missing.

For the Marvel Age, it varies. Some volumes require no full reconstruction. Others require two or three pages, and others, say where a complete story is missing, 20 plus pages. Earlier material tends to be in poorer condition. Most likely because it was duplicated over and over again throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s for various reprint comics. I’ve heard word that the first generation photostats were sent out West for use in the 1960s Marvel Super Heroes cartoons.

Conversely, the version of Amazing Fantasy #15 the film warehouse located for the ASM Omnibus is bar-none the absolute best version ever. I put my word on that—you can see the pencil line from where the captions were sketched out on these proofs! Jean, Ryan, and their crew at Jerron deserve huge kudos for their hard work searching the tens of thousands of photostat reams. The reproduction quality of every Masterworks starts with these guys and girls.

Before I close this out one thing I’d like to clarify here is that the folks that do this work are reconstructing the artwork from an original printed copy with utter faithfulness to the originals. There have been hullaboos about how reconstruction is a disservice to the original talents, and I hate to say it, but I take offense to that.

Folks like Mike Kelleher, Wil Glass, Dale Crain, Matt Moring, All Thumbs Creative, Pacific Rim Graphics, and Secret Agent Pond Scum put an intense effort and an enormous amount of time into every page, and its all to honor the original artists. There are no bigger fans than these people. They’ve made this their life’s work, and for the record, they rock. I’m spinning plates, and figuring out plans, and chasing schedules, but these are the people that really deserve your thanks and respect. They make it happen.

I really appreciate the kind words that the person who asked this question had for Mike and his work. Thank you!”

For the Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks, Kelleher had to recreate Amazing Spider-Man #29 in its entirety!

Fascinating, huh?

Obviously, people are mixed on the idea. Some people feel that it is misrepresenting the comic, as you’re not getting, say, a Steve Ditko Spider-Man story, you’re getting Mike Kelleher doing Steve Ditko (and Marvel certainly don’t advertise the comics as “Steve Ditko, as redrawn by Mike Kelleher,” but they don’t hide it, either. It’s just not advertised out front). Others view it as simply the same thing as doing a photocopy and, again, as Sedlmeier would undoubtedly note, we’re talking about doing it this way or not having these books reprinted period, so even if you don’t like it, it s probably a necessary evil, as it were (and again, that’s only if you have a problem with it period).

Thanks to Jose for bringing this up and thanks to Daniel for writing about this a lot over the years and thank to Cory for going so in depth on the concept.

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Check out some other entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Did TV’s Greg Brady Really Date His TV Mom in Real Life?

2. Was Where’s Waldo? Removed From a School Because it Contained an Exposed Female Breast?

3. > Was Beverly Hills Cop Really Originally Written for Sylvester Stallone?

4. Did Universal Studios Used to Offer an Incentive Based on a Joke From Animal House?_______________________________________________________________________________

Check back later for part 2 of this installment’s legends!

Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, find out whether Marvel Masterworks include stories redrawn by modern artists in them!

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