Original Art Stories: Avengers #1; Real Or Recreation?
A few days ago I posted a story about how Marvel have a stable of artists who they keep very quiet who's sole job is to redraw classic Marvel art for inclusion in their Marvel Masterworks line. Since that time the art representatives in question, Hyaena Gallery, have removed virtually all the listings of what art their artist, Michael Kelleher, has redrawn for Marvel. Oddly enough one of the excuses provided by Marvel for this recreation work was the lack of original art out there, but John Byrne has confirmed that he owns at least one page that Marvel had redrawn and would have happily have scanned it or made it available for inclusion in the relevant volume. There's other collectors out there who've indicated that they'd do the same in a heartbeat, but Marvel never ask publicly. So much for exhausting every avenue before they begin redrawing everything.
When the Avengers page surfaced on eBay my first thought was that the page looks too clean. The story behind it, if you believe the urban myth, was that it was discovered in a garage sale somewhere and then passed onto Heritage auctions, an auction house with some dubious practices at best. If you doubt me then have a quick Google search and see what they've sold in the way of vintage motion picture memorabilia. All of that doesn't automatically put this art into the fake pile, but it doesn't help things.
This scan pushed me over the edge though, but as with everything, you look and you decide for yourself. My good pal, Gerry Turnbull, sent me this scan highlighting subtle differences with the following commentary, "I was looking at the Avengers page, its hard to tell from the quality of the scan the current owner has provided, but here's a section compared with a scan from the published comic. Can you see differences? I think there's several differences, particularly the line coming down from the mouth but it may just be because of the poor resolution of his picture." Possibly so, but this small comparison scan, plus comments about the page being trimmed by those who claim to have seen the actual page makes me believe that the art in question, without further close examination, is probably one of the recent recreations that were both sanctioned and commissioned by Marvel Comics and as such is not the original art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. I doubt it's a stat, as others have claimed, I do believe it's art, just not art drawn by Kirby and Ayers. The same seller has a number of other pieces of original art on sale, including a Daredevil splash from issue #4. For the prices listed I'd want scans of everything, a damn good story as to where it came from and a money back guarantee. If the seller of the item wants to contact and fill me in with those three details then I'll be more than happy to post them here.
I'd love to see detailed scans of the art, along with a high resolution scan of the back of the page to see if the relevant comic code stamps do exist. With a price currently at the $34,000 mark someone will either be very happy or very, very disappointed when it's discovered to be a recreation by a totally different artist to those listed drawn a few years ago.
Buyer beware indeed.
Something else to ponder. This scan was also sent to me by Gerry Turnbull. This puts that splash page under more of a cloud of doubt than ever. All that Marvel will say is that certain parts of Avengers #1 was recreated by the new artists, but they've not said which pages. This would be a good time for Marvel to really come clean and admit as to which pages have been totally recreated and which pages they have used that has been reprinted from the original art as drawn by Kirby and Ayers. Until that point in time I'd advise anyone and everyone to avoid buying any such art unless they can obtain very detailed scans of both the front and backs of the pages and have a history of the page. It might be asking a bit much, but if you're considering outlaying a cool $45,000+ then it just makes good sense from a buying point of view.