Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cover To Cover

In Marvel's Greatest Comics, which for much of its run reprinted the Silver Age issues of Fantastic Four, a few liberties were taken with both cover and content. At times, the covers themselves were entirely redone--sometimes by the original artist (Jack Kirby), but often by other artists like Gil Kane and John Buscema. As much as I appreciate Kirby's art, it was interesting to see how another artist would give new life to an older story by designing a new cover for it--sort of like commissioning another artist to re-do one of your favorite scenes, but going a step further by rendering a totally different impression of it.

Here's a nice example, from the FF story "This Man... This Monster!".  The original cover on the left is drawn by artists Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, with the one on the right by Sal Buscema:

Buscema's version obviously seeks to add much more impact to the scene, with its larger scale and greater depiction of the Negative Zone and its dangers. There's also the shift of emphasis to Reed's predicament, vs. Kirby's focus on the Thing. Both covers clearly represent danger to Reed--but in Kirby's, it's apparent that the Thing has more direct involvement in the situation than any of the others--and speaking of which, Buscema adds the Torch to the cover, even though the character had no involvement in this aspect of the story.

The most important difference I see is that Kirby's cover does much more to reflect what's actually going on in the story, apart from the cut-to-the-chase element of Reed's lifeline to the lab breaking and casting him adrift in a deadly environment. In Kirby's version, the simple depiction of the Thing turning his back on Reed while his life is in danger makes the need for word balloons underscoring the situation superfluous.

I think Buscema's work on the cover could have held up fine on its own, with the dramatic, bold caption on each cover doing the work of selling each of these issues; in fact, if you remove the word balloons, Buscema's interpretation of the Kirby cover does a fair job of representing the basic threat to Reed's life, if not the story behind it.  Word balloons can be the kiss of death for otherwise good artwork.  On Buscema's cover, Sue states the obvious--whereas on Kirby's, a simple gesture and her expression speak volumes.

Still, two very cool pieces of artwork on the same piece, by three exceptional artists.


Kid said...

Also, with the Kirby cover, there's a clue to the reader that perhaps things (npi) aren't what they seem in regard to the Thing, as hinted at by his inaction to save Reed. Whereas the Buscema cover gives no indication that such is the case.

Doc Savage said...

No contest, Kirby captured it perfectly. That cover is a classic. The SB cover is all right, but rather pedestrian and blends in with so many similar covers. And the dialogue takes it down a notch, thru no fault of Sal's.

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