Friday, July 18, 2008

Original Art Stories: Avengers #1; Real Or Recreation, Part V

When all was said and done the auction was ended before it's time. The sellers of the Avengers #1 splash page decided, for their own reasons, to end the auction before it was due to end. It might be nothing more than they were sick of being asked if it was real and decided to accept an offer made to them to sell it away from eBay. That happens all the time (I've lost track of how many times I've listed something to have someone ask me to end the auction with a modest offer attached - I always refuse) and although it's against eBay rules, there's really nothing in place to stop the practice. If the sellers decide to speak and tell people what happened then we'll know, otherwise we'll wait and see who pops up as the new owner. One thing is for sure, the controversy won't die easily.

So is it a recreation or the real deal? There's more than enough compelling arguments for both. If it is real then it's been heavily restored, which, to me anyway, reduces it's overall appeal and should rightly affect the price of the art. One thing that art collectors like it's getting art in, warts and all. If I want a perfect copy then I'll buy the book, however part of the aesthetic appeal of original art is the extras - the margin notes, the handscribbed notes from the writer to the artists, or from the penciler to the inker, or the inker to the colourist, letterers and so forth. Bits of dialogue and extra pencils lines that were never inked, and, best of all, the possibility that these notes might offer some insight as to the overall creative process. To think that this page, if real, has had those notes erased, not to mention anything that might have existed on the back of the page (where preliminary sketches, doodles and other assorted goodies can, and do, exist) being erased forever is heartbreaking. If that is the case then it might as well be a recreation. Thankfully other pages from this book do exist in various states of repair.

This last bit came courtesy of the Fake Stan Lee blog. I asked about the indicia that is missing from the bottom of the page. I've been reliably informed that the indicia in the first issue of The Avengers exists on the inside front cover, so that clears that up. However as people looked at their original issues they found something very interesting - the job number, present in the scan featured on eBay, is nowhere to be seen on the actual page as it appeared in Avengers #1, as you can see below (which I've been told is a scan from the original Avengers #1).

There's a few things that might explain this though. Job numbers sometimes appeared, sometimes they didn't. In this case the job number might have been covered over by the colourist. I've dug through all my copies of reprints of the first Avengers issues, in the case of my Horwitz and Newton copies these were reprinted from the original stats as supplied by Marvel in the 1960s and early 1970s - nowhere in these reprints does the job number exist. Having said that the Horwitz reprint, which is the earliest known reprint in Australia, has had the credit box erased, but it appears that nothing below the credit box has been altered, the Newton reprint has been cropped and the Yaffa reprint didn't reprint the splash page, preferring to use the actual cover as the title page. I'll track down the UK reprints, as they also used stats of the original art as supplied by Marvel at the time. If the job number doesn't appear on the stats, or in the reprints, then that casts a large shadow on the splash page being offered here, unless someone comes forward and admits that they tampered with the art and inserted the job number themselves. Actually I'd expect to see the job number, sometimes at the bottom of the page, sometimes down the left hand side (facing the spine). But it is odd that the job number appears in the scan on eBay but nowhere else that I can find, although I don't have my copy of Essential Avengers #1 handy, nor a Masterworks volume. If anyone out there has those and wants to at least check, then do so and post the results, scanning would be even better.

In the meantime I'll see if I can't find out why the auction was ended early.

In the past day Steven Bove has sent me this scan, the first page of The Avengers #1, as it appeared in the original printing. No job number in sight. As Charles Yoakum points out, "...the job code could easily have been stripped off at the printing stage by someone working with the negative. Happens all the time with those printing methods. And here is the kicker: the job code makes sense."


Michael B said...

The job number isn't on the splash page as reprinted in the Marvel Masterworks Avengers Volume 1 either.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

i've scanned the pages from the essentials version of the avengers #1 and #2 over at my blog, and also did a little digging on the job codes over at my place:

let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

The earliest UK reprint I have is Mystic No.64 from 1965, published by L.Miller & Co. The only difference I can see is the page number which has been moved to the bottom right hand corner - there's certainly no job number printed.

I'm very, very suspicious of the artwork. Having said that though I have to admit that if it is a recreation somebody has done an amazingly accurate job!

- Phil Rushton

Ferran Delgado said...

The piece was displayed in SDCC. There's a pic of a guy holding the piece along X-Men #1 splash in Byrne's forum devoted to this controversy.