Spiegelman Did What?

By | Tuesday, August 15, 2023 Leave a Comment
Yesterday, I highlight a small set of mini-comics from Topps that parodied late '60s Marvel. I noted they were written by Roy Thomas and the art was creditted to Wally Wood and Art Spiegelman. And the question I got asked was, "Wood and Spiegelman?! What? Wait -- you just say 'art by' -- what did they each do?" (Technically, that's three questions, and nobody actually asked quite like that anyway. Just roll with it for the sake of my narrative here.)

Well, like a lot of comics in the '60s, specific art credits are often a little fuzzy. You might notice that the scans I posted yesterday don't have any credits listed on them at all, not even an artist's signature. The best definitive info I've been able to find just credits both of them. So how do we sort out who did what?

To start with, take a look at the scans from yesterday. Clearly, that is NOT Wood's inking. I'm not always great at identifying inkers based only on their brushwork, but that is very much not Wood there! Which means Spiegelman did the finishes here. And, by a basic process of elimination, that probably means Wood did the pencil work. But then we have the question of how much did Wood actually do? How detailed were his pencils and how much did Spiegelman have to embelish on his own?

Let's take a look at three pieces of Wood's pencil art that showcase differing levels of detail...
We have here a thumbnail/layout for Daredevil #7, a splash for Weird Science #4, and a cover sketch for Dynamo #4. The actual page from Daredevil uses some different panel details, but basically follows what's shown here. Wood was either working it out for himself or, potentially, wanted to sketch something out for Stan Lee to get his approval before diving in. (Wood was unaccustomed to working in the "Marvel style" and may have done the thumbnails to ensure he and Lee were on the same page.) The splash was intended to be for a 3D comic and was inked on a separate sheet to facilitate that, but this was basically a finished piece. The Dynamo cover was a sketch Wood did, but ultimately changed things for the final to center the train better and make Dynamo a little more active.

The thumbnail clearly doesn't have much detail, and is used primarily to show a basic layout. However, there is still enough there to identify individuals readily. The splash has considerably more detail, but you can also see there's a fair amount left to clean up in the inking. The main figures are relatively tight, but the background is sketchy. While any inker would be able to finish this pretty readily as it is, there's lots of room to add their personality to it. The cover, for all intents and purposes, is done. It barely needs inking at all.

Now granted, "The Meekly Thaw" is very cartoony and intentionally somewhat different stylistically than Wood's typical fare, but given how much background detail he still manages to put in his sketchy, still-needs-a-lot-of-tightening-up-in-the-inks art, I'm inclined to think what he did for "Thaw" wasn't much more elaborate, if at all, than the Daredevil thumbnail. While Spiegelman was still in his teens when these parody mini-comics came out, he was still talented (getting offered a job at Topps when he was only 15!) and I can easily see him getting to those finals from something as loose as those Daredevil thumbnails. If Wood had provided Spiegelman even the level of detail that we see in the splash, much less that cover, I think we'd see more of that reflected in the final. But instead we get little more than the figures themselves, and really only hints of backgrounds.

Can I say definitively that rough layouts are all Wood provided here? No, of course not. But I definitely get the sense that there's a lot more Spiegelman than Wood in these mini-comics!
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