You never know what’s going to turn up in the world of comic books, even after decades have gone by. So I was astonished to see the page I’m about to share with you turn up at one of the comic book auction sites recently. It’s an amazing thing unto itself, but it also provokes a bit of re-evaluation concerning what I laid out about the making of this story several months ago.
First off, for anybody who wasn’t around to read that piece new, it can be located here:
To break the situation down very simply once again: the Giant-Man story in TALES TO ASTONISH #61 had been promoted as featuring artwork by Dick Rockwell, an artist who had worked for the company in its pre-super hero days and who was best known within the field as a newspaper cartoonist. Instead, the story that finally saw print was a mess, with several hands in evidence–attributed primarily by editor Stan Lee to Steve Ditko and George Roussos, but which had mostly been penciled by Joe Orlando before extensive revisions were made.
So this page turned up on Comic Connect for auction not long ago. In the description of the item, the site notes:
Discovered underneath the published art by Steve Ditko and George Roussos was this unfinished version of the title splash by Golden Age artist and nephew of the legendary illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s work is very rare, and this piece is also an interesting peek into the creative process of early Marvel Comics. The drawing is all original, as well as the Rockwell and Art Simek credit boxes in the lower right, all other text elements are modern reproductions
It’s a really nice piece, but it adds some additional questions to the story of ASTONISH #61. Initially, the thinking was that Rockwell didn’t do any work on this story at all, and that Orlando was called in to sub for him. But it’s clear that he penciled and partially inked this splash page at least, before turning back the assignment. So what happened? And did he do any work on further pages? We may never know for certain. But if i was to take a guess as to why Lee had this page redrawn, putting aside the question of whether it would have fit in stylistically with what Orlando and later Ditko had done, I would guess that the concern was that Giant-Man was simply too large here. He’s colossal in comparison to those kids, and while it doesn’t bother my eye at all, it may have been enough to make Lee ask Ditko to replace it for the final story, which he eventually did. Ditko’s splash page shows Giant-Man as still being large, but not so overwhelmingly so as on this page. He’s in better scale to the observing kids.
We also get to see the missing credits, which give a bit more credence to the notion that Rockwell may have penciled more of this story before bowing out that we previously thought. After all, the story would only have been dialoged and lettered after the penciled pages had been done, and Rockwell is the only artist name listed. So it could be that Orlando was called upon to re-pencil a goodly portion of Rockwell’s work, and after he walked away from the job as well, Ditko came in to finish things up. This would help to explain the odd page layouts and compositions on certain pages, if there were three separate artists involved in putting them together.
So, this page raises more questions than it answers, but that’s often par for the course in this sort of comic book archaeology. And if nothing else, it gives us a very nice look at a potential Marel superstar who got away. Based on this one example, I would have been keen on seeing Dick Rockwell draw more for the Marvel of this period. He was clearly a skilled illustrator.