Original Art Stories: Avengers #1; Real Or Recreation?

The above splash page is currently on eBay at the moment. Long time comic book fans would recognise it as being the splash page to the first issue of The Avengers, as drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers. However I have doubts as to the veracity of the art and here's why.

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.

Your call.


Brian Pearce said…
In addition to the details you've commented on, the art board seems suspiciously clean to me -- no notes for the separators or the production department, no photostats, no correction fluid. It just seems odd to me.
Tim said…
I think you would have a strong court case if they represented that page as being by Jack Kirby and it wasn't. It's hard to say, Danny. Unless I could see the page before buying it, I'd never take somebody's word for an EBay purchase.
as always, really good stuff. I've put up a post with alink here to your blog on these recreations:


don't know how to do the "make a link" function
Norm Breyfogle said…
Very interesting issue you've highlighted here, Danny, one of which I was unaware (as I am of most such things which occur further down the line away from the original creator's perspective). I've read both your blogs on this subject, and although the issue is complex in many ways, there are certain basic points which stand out, all of which you've highlighted well.

Most importantly, I agree that Marvel should be compelled by ethics, by morality, and - very importantly - by law to provide specific disclaimers revealing exactly which pages/pieces were recreated, and this disclaimer should be stamped in ink on the original artwork. As far as I can see, this would solve the entire problem.
Chris Fama said…
Hello - my name is Chris Fama and I am a restoration artist for Marvel. From experience, I can tell you that the lines we see on the printed Avengers page versus that art are easily explained and rather common. Fine lines get thickened from the plate pressing into the newsprint. On the last volume of Thor I restored, the line weight of Collettas inks I recovered from editor proofs was far thinner than what was found in the comic.

That's not to say that this isn't a fake, just that those examples are that convincing.
Danny said…
Hi Chris, Interesting comments. I'd like to talk more about the recreations - are you at liberty to discuss them in general terms? If so then do email me: snoopy967@gmail.com Cheers, Danny
Anonymous said…
Here's the last page of that story up for auction. THAT'S what I would think the page shgould look like...


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