Fantastic Four 5 Comparisons

By | Thursday, September 27, 2012 3 comments
Rob Steibel just posted a bit of a conversation he had with another Jack Kirby fan about how a reprint can alter how a comic is printed. The two big issues were with art that's been "touched up" or even re-drawn and, more noticeably, recolored. Steibel then posted several sample pages scanned from an original copy of Fantastic Four #5.

Me, being the curious FF fan that I am, decided to track some things down for comparison. Not surprisingly, the originals have the biggest issues with mis-registration and dot-gain, not to mention that at a half-century on, the pages themselves have become discolored. The two comparisons panels I was able to get a hold of fairly quickly were the digital version currently available on comixology, and the earlier scans Steibel had posted that, I believe, came from the Marvel Masterworks series.

I'll let you judge for yourself which you like best. From left to right, these are the original, the current digital edition, and the Masterworks reprint...
You can easily see the current digital version is about as close to the original as you can get, color-wise. There are a few details lost (I found the pirate faces in the third example to be the most significantly obscured) but many of the lines hold up well, I think.

Given that Jack Kirby wasn't really concerned about inking, and was okay with someone like Vince Colletta taking vast shortcuts by erasing whole figures, provided the main characters for any given scene were still present, I don't think he would've minded too much about some of the finer details getting lost over time. Though, to the original point, and speaking as Kirby enthusiast myself, I do appreciate being able to see something closer to his original work.
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Matt K said...

The one on the far right is also how it's colored in my copy of The Very Best of Marvel Comics, presumably the same artwork was used. Had no idea how different it was from the original.

Though, looking at most of the changes, I do feel like on balance it's a marked improvement.

BPearce said...

For what it's worth, what you might find in a Masterworks volume in terms of line quality and color fidelity will depend on when that volume was published, as some volumes have been issued and re-issued (even re-re-issued!) a few times through the years, and corrected as part of that process. It took a few years for attention to be paid to these kinds of details.

As a general rule of thumb, the further back you go -- in terms of when the collection, not the original material, was published -- the less likely the reprint will resemble the original. (The files for digital sale aren't reliably drawn from the best possible or most recent sources, so it's anyone's guess as to what you might end up with.)

Donald G said...

The coloring of the Masterworks reprint you've got here varies widely from the coloring of the 2003 Barnes and Noble softcover and the 2009 softcover.

The colors of the 2009 softcover are now closer to what's printed in the other two versions you show, except that Ben's leggings in the pirate outfit are more reddish than the orangish of the other two versions.