Tom Kraft has set up a great website called Whatifkirby.com where he is archiving and posting scans of Jack Kirby original artwork. Here’s an intriguing page:
Publisher: Marvel Comics Group
Cover Date: March, 1962
Art Type: Panel
Story: “The Menace Of The Miracle Man”
Character(s): Johnny Storm, The Thing
Size: 13.7 x 21.9 in. (35 x 55.7 cm)
On the back of the page you can see what looks to be the initial designs for the Fantastic Four logo.
I find this puzzling for several reasons. First of all, as far as I’m aware, there are very few examples of Kirby originals where Jack (or anyone else) drew on the back of the artwork — so this is fairly unique. Secondly, this doesn’t really look like Jack’s work to me, and Lee can’t even draw a stick figure, so I don’t know if this is his work either.
On whatifkirby.com, Ferran Delgado writes: “…it’s curious that it was done at page 16, when the uniform was shown for first time in page 7. Another curiosity is that the design shown at the back of the original has the extrusion or shadow towards the bottom right, while in the whole comic it’s shown at the opposite with only an exception, in page 19 panel 2.”
Also, Jack used his own supplies, and would have turned in the artwork for Lee to dialogue, so Lee would have had to do these logo designs after Jack finished the story.
I hate to suggest some monkey business is going on here, but I almost find myself thinking the best explanation for these logos is that they were done after-the-fact. They look almost like someone giving you an indication of what the process might have been like trying to come up with a logo than an actual snapshot of the initial process itself. Why someone would take the time to do this on a back of original art that no one would see is beyond me, but to my eye this is a pretty strange.
Then again, looking at page 16, it could be that the “4” logos were added after-the-fact — originally there was no logo and Lee (or someone in production like Sol Brodsky) sketched out those designs on the back of that page, Lee approved the circular logo, and then Sol or someone in the office went through the book and made the changes — adding the 4 logo. I’m pretty sure Greg Theakston has written about this subject before in his Pure Images series, but I don’t have those publications, so if anyone has additional info please feel free to share.
Here’s my guess: I think initially there was no logo on the costumes. On page 16, Lee decided he wanted a “4” logo, so Lee turned the page over and drew those three “4” sketches that are in blue pencil on the back starting with the smallest on the bottom. Lee gave the page to Sol Brodsky and told Sol he wanted him to add a “4” logo to all the costumes, then Lee directed Brodsky to give him some additional samples. Sol sketched out a few other designs, but the “4” inside a circle was the first one he drew in the center of the page, and he decided it was the strongest, so he circled it.
Lee probably green-lighted this design and Sol went through the art and added the logo to the costumes. Of course I haven’t examined all the art from this book closely, so I’m just speculating here, and obviously any number of events could have taken place, so consider this Kirby CSI where I look at what I have, and guess at the chronology and history. Either way, an interesting look into the Kirby/Lee production process and another fun mystery to ponder.
Thanks to Tom Kraft for his great whatifkirby website. Great work Tom.
One more observation. The original sketch of the logo has the shadow on the right side.I think the change to the left side is based on the eye’s natural tendency to read left to right. The logo just looks right this way. The characters and action tend to move towards the right and placing the shadow on the left side of the logo enhances this effect.
After this issue, you see a mixture of logos in the books that follow: sometimes the shadow is on the left side others it’s on the right; sometimes the shadow is on top of the “4,” other times below it. By Fantastic Four # 16 (1963), we start to see a more simplified logo with no shadow at all.
Kris Brownlow had this to add about the “4” logo:
About the Fantastic Four logo, I think Jack once said that he originally envisioned the logo as a 3-D emblem that floated on the costume, and that’s why the shadow was constantly changing in the early issues. I think it’s a neat idea, but I suspect it was probably an annoying thing for Jack to have to draw constantly, so he eventually went to the flat logo.
Kris just started his own Kirby weblog. Check it out at:
Good luck to Kris. I hope he has as much fun as I’ve had here at Kirby Dynamics.