The Fantastic Four #136 Cover Mysteries

By | Friday, August 20, 2021 Leave a Comment
I stumbled across a minor, but curious, mystery a little while ago. Here are the covers for Fantastic Four #135, 136 and 137...

And here are the covers for some French-language Canadian reprints that came out about two months after the originals...

Most of the covers of the reprint series are lifted from the original comics, with just the English translated into French. But for some reason, the issue reprinting Fantastic Four #136 doesn't have use the original cover art, but a panel of interior art.

Now it's certainly possible the original cover art was lost or destroyed. But here's the cover to a British reprint of the same story from about four years later...
It's been modified a bit to accomodate a slightly wider format, but there was clearly some form of reproducible art still around.

Or was there?

On closer study, The Complete Fantastic Four cover might in fact an entirely new piece of art, recreated based on the original. The more you look at the two, the more discrepancies to see: Medusa's left boot, the Torch's flame aura, the placement of Thing's left hand, the number of steps on that dais, the placement of the upper bike rider... There are more issues there than would be touched up for the size difference. Which leads one to think that the actual cover art for FF #136 was lost in the mail, and John Buscema recreated it based on a printed version.

But then again, most of the differences are either in placement or details near the edge. So was this then a heavy re-cut/paste job with a few touch-ups at the edges? It wouldn't be the first time Marvel put a fair amount of time and effort into heavily retouching some cover art for arguably inconsequential changes.

And, in doing some further research, The Complete Fantastic Four issue is an anomoly. Other foreign reprints -- some coming later still -- use the original art...
So if the original cover art was still around (or at least some version of it that could be used in production) there's a fair case to be made that The Complete Fantastic Four version was NOT a re-creation. But it still seems like a heck of a lot of production work just to get the art to fit a slightly different format. It probably would have been faster, and possibly cheaper, to just have Buscema draw a new one.

Getting back to the Canadian cover, it makes sense that if Marvel sent the art up to Canada for that reprint and the cover art was somehow lost or damaged, and they had to scrounge for something quickly. Depending on when in their printing process the cover are became unusable, it might make sense to just grab the nearest available art that would fill most of a cover -- the opening splash page. But, why the strange treatment? Why the odd angle? Why the red border? Why color some of the figures, but not the Human Torch? And why color the figures with the least intense color of the three chosen? Questions I do not have even speculative answers for. Nothing in my graphic design background can figure out how they arrived at any of their decisions here, aside from, "Hey, what's the biggest piece of art we have that we can use for a cover?"

There just seem to be a number of weird (and admittedly inconsequential) questions around this cover.
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