Monday, May 18, 2015

Death Amidst Opulence

As drawn by artist Jack Kirby, the scene of the cover of Fantastic Four #93 doesn't look like it needs many changes for a reprint of its story--but in the FF's reprint mag, Marvel's Greatest Comics, a few are thrown in, nevertheless:

As is usually the case with a cover bearing the MGC logo, it appears that the character of Torgo (the metal-based alien who has the Thing on the ropes) finds himself reduced in stature in order to accommodate the additions of the Marvel Comics banner and the billing of the Fantastic Four, so that his formidable-looking bludgeon weapon doesn't block the one word in the logo ("Greatest") which the cover wishes to retain its prominence. The arena wall has also been reduced in height so that the spectator stands can appear sized as they do in the original. (That puts "Boss Barker" and his fellow hoodlums a little closer to the combatants than they might like, but at the moment it doesn't look like that's a concern for them, does it?)

And since the arena wall now has less height, the contestant entrance doors had to go--replaced by a standard grate which may or may not be used for ventilation of the lower levels. (If it is, a lot of people are probably sweltering down there.) And where to put the story's caption, since the wall height and the Thing's arm leave no room for it? Since the backdrop of the stands is only a backdrop and doesn't serve much use otherwise, there's room for the caption above the spectators. As to why the wording was changed, perhaps it was felt that a greater emphasis should be placed on the threat to the Thing, and so his mysterious opponent is mentioned by name. I would have thought the words "Arena of Death!" combined with Torgo looming over the Thing would have made Torgo's threat clear as crystal--but perhaps one works just as well as the other.

Boss Barker and his friends are mostly intact from Kirby's original depiction--but with the removal of the FF's corner box as well as Torgo's reduced bulk, a few more bloodthirsty mobsters are added to the group. As for the Thing, his seems to be the most obvious alteration, with his face on the MGC cover now visible and looking toward us. It's a peculiar change to make, since it's doubtful the Thing's facial features will make him any more distinctive than the rest of his rocky orange bulk. The change might have made sense if Torgo had made contact with his hand and had the Thing by the throat, but that's not the case here, and Kirby sensibly has the Thing focused on fending off Torgo's threat.  (Though on the new cover, the Thing is kicking up more dirt, giving the appearance of a greater struggle.)

Otherwise, there are several decisions made that have the spectator area being given a less ornate look than on the original cover--or more of one, depending on how true it's felt the cover should be to the story. For instance, despite the plush drapery overhang on Kirby's cover, the stands lack the expensive decor pictured in Kirby's full-page rendition of the room:

And while the same can be said of the MGC cover, the coloring has been changed to better reflect the interior of the stands. Also, strange that the drapery's texture doesn't interfere in the least with the FF's cover logo, but has been omitted from the reprinted cover, perhaps judged to be too distracting from MGC's overall masthead format.

To give either cover's scenario a happy ending, Torgo refuses to deliver the killing blow, and joins his fellow "slaves" in turning the tables on their gangster and Skrull captors. And despite being the fanciest arena money can buy, we can probably assume that Torgo and his buddies brought the house down on it.


Anonymous said...

This is interesting to me, because most of the F.F. Lee/Kirby issues I own are reprints, but I very much prefer the originals. Some of those covers have been done a real disservice to the original material, in my opinion, whether because of marketing or the size of the masthead, who knows.
Ah, well. Thank God for reprints, anyway, because it was the only way I could get my sweaty little hands on a lot of this stuff.
I liked the Thing/Skrull-world/gangsters in outer-space saga!
At one point when getting prodded and admonished by Skrull slavers for his generally poor attitude and disposition, Ben Grimm replied, "I didn't figure to win no popularity contests in this dump."
A crack like that once got me put on KP duty in the Army!

Comicsfan said...

Those reprints came in handy for me, as well, M.P., since they helped me work my way back to earlier stories that had long since left the sales rack. Unfortunately, they also tended to omit and/or alter material because of a lack of space or other considerations, which probably spurred my drive to collect back issues of the originals.

As for that "popularity contest" crack that landed you in hot water, look at it this way: Your punishment was less severe than the Thing's! ;)

Anonymous said...

And for us British Marvel fans there's a third version of this cover drawn in "landscape" style for Marvel UK's 'The Titans' #35 in June 1976 - unfortunately, the cover appeared a week too early and the actual story of the Thing vs. Torgo was in The Titans #36, d'oh !!

david_b said...

IMHO.., it's probably one of the weaker covers to begin with.., when compared to the rest of Kirby's Silver greatness.

Both original and reprint are so-so..., perhaps slight improvement on the reprint in terms of bolder colors.

Kid said...

And you can see the Titans version of which CJ speaks right here, CF:

Comicsfan said...

Much obliged, Kid. (I like how they combined both covers' captions!)

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