This past week I was called upon to do some work on the upcoming AUGUST 1961 Omnibus that Marvel is going to be releasing as part of the 60th Anniversary of the publication of FANTASTIC FOUR #1. The massive book will collect all of the other Marvel titles that were also on sale on or around August 8th, 1961 when FANTASTIC FOUR #1 went on sale–giving buyers a view of the entirety of the publishing landscape all at once. It’s a pretty fun project, and the collection is shaping up well. But that’s not why I’m writing this quick piece.
The reason I’m doing this piece is that working on this book gave me access to Marvel’s in-house stat of the cover to FANTASTIC FOUR #1 again. I’ve seen it before, but never thought to grab a copy of it for myself. And having done that, I thought I’d reproduce it here, so that we can look at it and see what, if anything, it further tells us about the development of the issue. Plus it’s just cool to see it this way. This would have been shot from the original art before the issue went off to press–but also before every last bit of fine-tuning was done to the piece. Both Martin Goodman and Stan Lee were notoriously picky about the covers on their titles–often to the point of craziness. They’d make last-minute changes right as the cover was meant to be heading out the door, typically in the service of visual clarity. But this is why so many Marvel reprints of the early stories have cover reproductions that vary a bit from the actual published books. Lee and Martin couldn’t stop fiddling with things.
I also saved a version where I adjusted the brightness and contrast, giving us a better view of the places where white-out was used to make corrections, of paste-ups and other such evidence. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot additional to see here. Notations at the top indicate that the cover was being produced for the JULY SCHEDULE and that the issue number and cover date should be #1 NOV. And the paste-up of Sol Brodsky’s logo and of all of the type on the FEATURING box is plain to see. But not much else. As you’d expect, the four word balloons were lettered directly onto the board before it was inked. And there’s nothing to indicate that this piece might have been done as a cover for AMAZING ADVENTURES or any other title–everything we see indicates that it was intended from the start for FANTASTIC FOUR #1
Comparing this stat to the published cover, you can see that a lot of attention was paid to the bystanders on the right side. The original cover as drawn has only three bystanders, where two others have been added for the printed cover–and the guy in the foreground has had his entire body turned (which was a good move–he’s no longer stepping on Mister Fantastic’s word balloon.) Additionally, a couple of added flourishes have been added to the row of shops: text indicating that the building in the foreground is a Beauty Salon, and that it’s at number 137. The building next door has had a 135 added to it, and a TO LET sign has been hung out between the two structures. Surely these alterations commanded far more purchasers than might otherwise have been attracted.