Friday, June 15, 2012

The day Captain America forgot his trousers


It was 1967. The summer of love. And when the Masters of Evil are attacking and you've got to lead The Avengers into battle, who's got time to remember their trousers?

The Odhams 'Power Comics' remain my all-time favourites but when they made mistakes, they made some real clangers. 

When reprinting Marvel strips, Odhams were supplied with black and white copies of the artwork and, presumably, some sort of colour guide, probably in the form of the original comics. That colour guide wasn't always adhered to. The mistakes could sometimes be minute, but a few times... well, see the cover of Terrific No.20 above, with Captain America charging into battle bare legged. They quite often made the mistake of giving him bare arms but this was something else. For a Living Legend of World War 2 who was trying to retain the respect of those around him, hot pants were not a good look.

In the background, you'll notice that Thor's hoping for a tan as well.

I'm also showing the original printing here from Avengers No.15. I hope you'll forgive the tatty cover. This was the third Marvel comic I bought and I hadn't quite developed the habit of trying to keep them in near mint condition when I was eight. 

Another big clanger, but not quite as funny, had taken place a year earlier in 1966, with The Hulk's first cover appearance on Smash! As most comic fans know, in his first issue in America in 1962 The Hulk had grey skin, but as it didn't print consistently they changed it to green from issue 2. Presumably no one told Odhams...


And to top it off, The Hulk had a preference for white nail varnish. Who'd have guessed? "The strangest man of all time!!" Indeed, and he's wearing a yellow dress.

25 comments:

BrittReid said...

I also note the SMASH cover is three-color (with no black ink), using solid cyan/magenta for the black line art, giving the line art a purple color.
(If thy had used solid yellow in the line art as well, it would at least have been a dark-brown/black.

Manic Man said...

while Cap might forget his trousers.. atlest he isn't bare legged.. unlike what Thor now is in the Terrific version.. Giant man loses his mask and.. the wasp changes location ^_^

Couple of other small changes not worth saying about, but.. I think that's good enough ^_^

John Barleycorn Must Die said...

Seeing these covers really takes me back! Nuff Said!

Lew Stringer said...

@BrittReid, With the way some of those old comics often printed off-register I think adding a solid yellow to the blueline might have been risking it. A lot of old comics used that three-colour method back then. I found it quite appealing personally. :)

@Manic, Eh? Cap looks bare legged on that cover to me. As for the other changes ('Perish' becoming 'Die' for example, and the repositioning of Giant Man's arm) chances are that Odhams were sent an early version of the cover, rather than the one Marvel used.

NP said...

That cover made me cringe at the time, Cap looked like a South American table dancer (there'd just been a Man Alive TV show about that in mid 1967. Very embarrassing back then!) But Seeing the interior art nice and big and in lovely solid black was always a real pleasure. Chic Stone on Kirby and Steve Ditko's own inks are still a masterclass in inking. Just my opinion, other views are available (though not necessarily correct!)

Lew Stringer said...

Agreed. I always liked Chic Stone's crisp inking style. He gave the pages a great clarity.

Ditko inking Kirby was a powerful combination. Ditko inking his own work was perfect.

Manic Man said...

Been looking again.. Captian American is wearing some form of white body stocking. While it might be to do with the print fade over years, i've even messed about a bit, with the Contrast, and it becomes a tiny bit clearer that his face Has a light skin tone. His arms and legs are white. In fact, if you look at his arm JUST as it appears from behind his sheild, you will notice (again, you might have to REALLY look and hype up the contrast) but that tiny bit of arm is skin tone, where the rest is white, until his blue starts.. Of course, i know the yellowing is a bit of a stain..

Very tricky to tell but.. I'm pretty sure on this..

Lew Stringer said...

There's no print fade. Perhaps it's how it's scanned or perhaps it's your monitor but I assure you that on the actual comic, the legs are flesh tone. Which was the whole point of the post really. If it had simply been white I wouldn't have bothered pointing it out. :)

NP said...

I've just looked at my copy of that issue of Terrific and yes Cap is definitely bare legged. Shudder! The printing process was very basic, and it's very clear 'in the flesh' so to speak!

Manic Man said...

mm.. Okay then ^_^ I wouldn't have thought it would be my screen but I haven't recalibrated in a few weeks.. and scanned images never quite turn out the same as the original anyway.. I had to deal with a poster that was .. white but starting to yellow, though no really visible, it was extremely visible on the scan.

So okay then ^_^ my mistake on that one.

Lew Stringer said...

The printing process that Terrific used was a bit different to the newsprint of Smash! so the flesh tones tended to be quite pale. Looks like they only used a 10% magenta or something, but whatever it was the colourist thought Cap's arms and legs should be flesh tone.

Thankfully it only happened once on his legs, but Cap's arms (the bit that should be white) was often mis-coloured as flesh on Terrific's covers. Presumably the colourist thought he was wearing a T-shirt!

Lew Stringer said...

By the way BrittReid, I forgot to add that the linework on the Smash cover doesn't use a combo of magenta and cyan but is a dark blue ink. I don't know much about printing methods of those comics but perhaps it was a different printing process than the CMYK method for photogravure etc?

HT said...

Comparing the two scans it becomes immediately obvious there is colour fade on the Terrific cover especially the blue areas. Perhaps originally Captain had light blue legs and over tge years its faded.

Chris Williams said...

It wasn't just the comics Lew. Check my old Batman Super8 featuring a green caped tattooed Batman in his underpants. https://twitter.com/#!/ChrisDWilliams/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2F9veT5siq

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Chris. Presumably the artist thought a skin-tight costume was actually skin. Shows how unfamiliar some artists/colourists are with the source material I suppose.

@Manic Man and HT: The colouring in comics doesn't fade unless they've been exposed to bright sunlight for a long period or put in a machine wash with a strong detergent. Apart from some yellowing around the edges, that Terrific cover is just the same as when it was published in 1967. The difference between that and The Avengers cover is simply because they were coloured by two different people. The flesh toned legs are due to a colouring mistake in the UK, that's all.

HT said...

If truth be told who knkws what the colours looked like back then? All we have now are artifacts of the past seen through modern day eyes. The ravages of time can do untold things to paper.

Lew Stringer said...

HT, I guess you'll just have to take the word of those of us who bought the comics when they were published.

Manic Man said...

^_^; erm.. I know it doesn't fade unless in strong light.. though I have been surprised by just how weak that light needs to be at times. I was (in my comment) wondering about if it had for some time, maybe while you were a kid, been in strong enough light to start to fade some of it. But since the comment on just how weak some of there skin tone colours were, that's explained. I'm well aware that it was recoloured, Alot of the UK printers wouldn't be able to use the US colouring, it used too many colours for the printing process.


Oh, and I finished my recalibration and my Gamma was a tiny bit high.. Not much more then a couple of points, but enough to add a slight knockout on the weak Cap Skin tone.

No offence taken or anything, but there wasn't a need to make the comment to me also, but then, information of any kind is always good to share. Thus is the way we learn.

Lew Stringer said...

Hi Manic Man,
I included you because both you and HT suggested "colour fade" might be an option. Most of the explanation was directed at HT but I thought HT might feel he was being singled out if I'd ignored the fact that you raised the subject as well. Guess I should just have made it a general reply without mentioning anyone in particular. :)

BrittReid said...

"By the way BrittReid, I forgot to add that the linework on the Smash cover doesn't use a combo of magenta and cyan but is a dark blue ink. I don't know much about printing methods of those comics but perhaps it was a different printing process than the CMYK method for photogravure etc?"

I can't tell from the scan if the blue tinted areas are just a screen of the blue or a combination of Magenta and whatever Blue they used.
It might be a darker blue than Cyan, thereby enabling them to use it for line art, but the blue and Magenta seem to be aligned pretty well.
If they used that dark blue along with black (or by itself without any other color on the page) anywhere in the interior, that would explain it's use on the cover.

Lew Stringer said...

The interiors were all black and white. They just used dark blue/red/yellow on the covers to save money I suppose.

Phil Rushton said...

I remember being really disappointed with Terrific no.1 as both the colour separations and paper stock were so obviously inferior to Fantastic. By contrast the front and back cover colouring of the latter title had always impressed me as being superior to the American originals. Presumably the two comics were produced on different presses.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, the printing was definitely cheaper quality on Terrific. The interiors felt like newsprint (and the ink came off on your hands).

That said, I still liked it and the trimmed format still made it look better quality than some other comics. Sales must have been pretty poor though for it to only last for 43 weeks (and be the only Power Comics title that never had an annual).

Gary Northfield said...

I'm quite fond of those old colour processes and the mistakes that Odhams made. The images make for big lovely bold covers, all told.

Garry Howe said...

It's as plain as day that's pink, not white.

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