GIANT-SIZE MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION #1 and the Cover Notes of Stan Lee

I’m pretty certain that I scavenged this from over at Scott Edelman’s blog from a number of years ago. Both Scott and his wife Irene had been on staff at Marvel in the 1970s and had saved an assortment of various memos and bits of paraphernalia. Every so often, Scott would come across one of these relics and share it with his audience. I thought this one deserved a wider spotlight put on it–so here we are.

Above, you can see the final, published cover for GIANT-SIZE MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION #1, one of the many oversized reprint titles that Marvel jammed the racks with in the mid-1970s. Its all-new cover was penciled and inked by John Romita. And it’s that cover that we want to speak about here.

Upon seeing a copy of the cover in production, Publisher Stan Lee dashed off the above memo to Len Wein, who was then Marvel’s Editor (effectively the Editor in Chief, though there was still only one titled Editor in those days.) In it, he outlines areas in which the cover image can be punched up, and gives an overview of the kinds of things he is looking for on a Marvel super hero cover. And we can see from the final that, while Stan’s addition of the “Avengers Assemble!” balloon didn’t end up getting done, Goliath’s expression was punched up to make him more clearly yelling, as Lee had asked for. That balloon Len added on the middle right doesn’t actually say a single thing–all it does is take up space and clutter the cover up further. The 1970s was an era for cluttered, copy and balloon-heavy covers from Marvel.

6 thoughts on “GIANT-SIZE MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION #1 and the Cover Notes of Stan Lee

  1. I thought that Stan guy was pretty good at getting Marvel Comics to be as successful as they were, at least in the 60s and early 70s before he moved on from writing etc.


  2. Exactly how emotional or crazy-faced can someone get while concentrating on shooting a target with a bow and arrow? LOL I preferred Hank’s expression in the original B&W cover. Stan knew these comics, well-planned and done with a lotta skill, were still packaged as kids stuff. His similar instincts and approach didn’t fare well on “Ravage 2099″…

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  3. And the bit Stan didn’t catch — not that he would have thought to check — but Len’s caption on the Avengers panel promises the Sons of the Serpent, who aren’t in that story.

    But Stan was probably right in that while the original cover is well-crafted, John was probably thinking more about “agh, nine characters!” than making the scenes something other than generic (and the least generic of them is swiped from his own earlier cover), and Len was probably thinking, “Reprint book…slap some copy on it and get it off my desk,” rather than “how can we sell more copies of this?”

    I doubt changing Hawkeye and Quicksilver’s expressions sold a single extra copy, but Stan’s overall message isn’t about the specifics, it’s about “make it more of a grabber!” in whatever ways they could.

    I might have tried to sell what this book had over other choices — bulk — with a blurb like “8 great heroes! 3 titanic tales!” But Len was probably racing the clock, and had a couple of dozen other books to handle as well.

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  4. This stuff really deserves to be collected somewhere, even as a physical book. Something like “Stan Lee: Behind The Scenes”. It might not be as popular as some of the fluff books, but I suspect it would sell respectably well.

    And I think he’s correct here. Anything called “GIANT SIZE MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION” should have a cover that pops and sizzles, that vibrates with excitement. One viewer’s “cluttered” is another’s “overflowing”. Giant-Man is the most prominent character on that cover, and in the original version he looks duller. Yelling a battle-cry is a much better concept.

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  5. Technically, not “Giant-Man”, but “Goliath”.
    When he returned in V1#28 and received the costume from the Scarlet Witch (who added the weird goggles he kept as Goliath/Ant-Man 2.0/Yellowjacket) he adopted Goliath and kept it even after he also regained his Ant-Man powers in V1#46!
    Yeah, I’m a Roy Thomas-level nitpicker…and I read the books when they came out in 1966-7.

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