tales that astonish

Jesse Marinoff Reyes:

Original Art/Mechanical: Full Page Promo Ad
Tales to Astonish
September 1964 issue, #59
Illustration: Jack “King” Kirby (1917-1994), pencils, and Sol Brodsky (1923-1984), inks; Lettering: Sam Rosen (deceased 1992) (Colors for the printed art: Stan Goldberg, b. 1932)

Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design—

Part 7 of LONG LIVE THE KING: Seven Days of Jack “King” Kirby (1917-1994)

Startling to see comic book “mechanicals” (or for that matter, any mechanical, or rather a production-ready page intended to go to the printer to be made into film to burn printing plates) from back in the old days where it was essentially a pen-and-ink piece of original art cut out of the page that [here Kirby] had drawn it on and then rubber-cemented to the mechanical board—the aged glue has turned to brown stain in the ensuing 48 years) with lettering and/or other material applied to the art original. They weren’t precious about this—no reproduction photostat for example, unless there was a needed size change or correction to the art that required something to be patched-in. Notoriously, the Incredible Hulk Annual #1 (or “king size special”) that had been illustrated by the masterful Jim Steranko had been submitted to Marvel but it was decided that the Hulk’s visage was too scary, so without permission of notification to Steranko, Marie Severin was tasked with redrawing the head so that the face would be less-terrible (though, it helped that “Mirthful” Marie, sister of John Severin, was a master comic artist in her own right). Just the way things were done on those days—but the proud Steranko was no less happy about it.

To say the least, despite the production add-ons and Kirby’s own correction work (note the white out) it still counts as an art original and not terribly different from the way covers were put together for decades, but the same methods applied to most anything that was as much a typographic design as a comic art page.

Inker Sol Brodsky was also Marvel’s production director, so this layout was likely his to promote the next issue of Tales To Astonish as being split between separate adventures for Giant Man and the Wasp, and those of the Hulk. The original run of the Incredible Hulk had been cancelled after six issues, and the character was languishing somewhat in guest-star limbo and a brief run as an original member of The Avengers. The Hulk’s sales hadn’t caught on (hard to imagine today) but Marvel’s strategy had been to take characters that needed to build an audience over time and put them into split-feature (or half-and-half) titles. Tales to Astonish began in 1959 as a monster-stories anthology title for its first 34 issues. Starting in issue #35, while still something of an anthology title it began to feature Ant Man/Giant Man and the Wasp as primary characters, plugged on the cover almost as if it were a solo title—like The Amazing Spider-Man or The Fantastic Four—but with a section of the book devoted to the one character team, with a few non-related anthology backup features included. This worked for 25 more issues when it became more practical to turn Tales to Astonish into a split-feature. Giant Man and the Wasp gave way to The Sub-Mariner in issue #70 as the Hulk’s “roommate,” and the Hulk took over the title outright—with the Sub-Mariner getting his own solo title—with issue #101.

Interesting to note Kirby’s pose for the Hulk in this design, that it mirrors his composition for the character on the cover of Hulk #1.

Special thanks to Comic Art Fans.com for the scan.

Stay tuned for an extensive JACK KIRBY gallery that I’ll be posting shortly on this, the 95th Birthday of Jack “King” Kirby!

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