Tag Archives: Fighting American

Some Comments About Restoration for Comic Book Reprints

The Comic Journal has recently reviewed Titan’s new trade-back “Fighting American” (Preview: Fighting American). I understand some have already obtained copies of the book but I have yet to see any in the comic book store I use. I do not have a copy but I have had a chance to briefly look at one belonging to Joe Simon. The material included in this trade-back is the same found in the previously released “The Simon and Kirby Superheroes”. So if you already have the Superheroes book you may not feel the need to pick up the “Fighting American” trade-back.

But TCJ’s article is not just a review, it is a preview as well. With Titan’s permission they provide the complete story “Home-Coming Year 3000”). So if you do not have either the Superheroes or the new “Fighting American” books you can see what you are missing.

There is an interesting comment that someone has made to The Comic Journal article. The commenter claims that the art has been touched up and in particular the some of the line art in the book was thicker than in the original comics. I will discuss his claim later in this post but I thought I would use this as an opportunity to discuss a little bit about the restoration of line art that I do for Titan’s Simon and Kirby books.

Readers of my previous posts on the subject of restoration should know that I do not recreate line art (a process that Marvel still continues to use for their reprints of golden age material). However the end result of my restorations is by no means just a scan. I have no problems with describing what I do as “touch ups” only not in the manner that the TCJ commenter uses the term. Frankly the original printing used in these comics was pretty poor. Now as far as I am concerned reprints of just scans is far superior to art recreation however I prefer to try to correct some of the printing flaws.


Close Up of Flaws in the Original Printing

The above image gives an example of the types of printing flaws typically found in gold and silver age comics. Note that the area of solid black is not actually solid or black. Instead there are spots that the ink did not cover at all and even where the black ink is applied it is so thin that the underlying magenta ink can be seen*. Also note how the in the upper right there appears to be two closely spaced horizontal lines. Actually there really was only supposed to be one horizontal line but the printing left ink only on the edges of the original line and failed to reach the center of the line.

When selecting an image for this post I debated with myself whether to use the original scan or after it had been processed with Photoshop to enhance the colors. There appears to be no yellow in the area shown but actually almost all of it had yellow. If the reader looks at the very top of the image and compares it to the left edge you should be able to see the very faint yellow remains. With Photoshop I can bring out the colors better which allows for more accurate color restoration.


Close Up of the Restored Art

Above shows an image of the same area after restoration. The solid black is now truly solid, the center of the horizontal line are filled and similar flaws throughout are corrected. But I am not recreating the line art just doing touch ups.

Some may find the restored version rather glaring. The blacks may now seem a bit too much black. However I am not doing restorations for viewing on a computer monitor. The final product is a printed book and things will look different. The image presented is blown up and in the printed version occupies only a very small area of the page. Further the black will not look quite so black when printed.


Close up from the Original Comic Version of “Home-Coming Year 3000”

As mentioned earlier, a TCJ commenter claimed that the art lines had been thickened in the restoration. Unfortunately he did not give an specific examples nor have I been able to find any in the story previewed by the Comics Journal. so I can have provided a close-up from the original scan only this time showing it in black and white. Simon and Kirby did not use very fine lines but I selected an area where the lines are as fine as they get in the story.


Close up of the Restored VersionĀ  of “Home-Coming Year 3000”

Above is the same area after restoration. Note that small flakes of black can be seen attached or nearby the line art. These are printing flaws in the original printing. They maybe a little hard to see in the scan of the original comic because they are obscured by the colored inks that come out as black dots in the unprocessed original scan but look at the area without such dots on the right and you can see the flaws there as well. I do not try to remove every printing flaw only the ones the more serious ones.


Close up of the Restoration Overlaid of the Original VersionĀ  of “Home-Coming Year 3000”

In the above image I have changed the restored version from black to magenta and overlaid it over the original scan. The restoration was so precise that all that magenta of the restored version could not be seen. Had the lines really been thickened in the restoration the blacks would have been ringed with magenta. To bring out how perfectly it is aligned I purposely erased a strip from the original scan so that the magenta version of the restoration could be seen.

So why did the TCJ commenter claim the lines were thicker in the restored versions? I suspect it is all a matter of perception. The blacks are blacker in the restoration than in the original comic book printing. Blacker lines could give the impression of thicker lines. But I believe the most important reason for the TCJ commenter’s error was due to his comparison of Internet images with the original printing. My restorations are based on scans done at 600 dots per inch. Generally everything from 400 dpi and above have fine enough resolution that the human eye can not detect that the image is actually composed of small dots. Actually most people have trouble seeing it at 300 dpi but at lower resolutions the deterioration of the image quality is easily detected. Computer monitors have very low resolution. Monitors differ in size and resolution but for example my monitor has approximately 85 dots per inch. The resolution is so low that the color in “Home-Coming Year 3000” looks solid when in the original comic the dots used for the coloring are clearly visible. You simply cannot make a good judgment on the thickness of lines based on an Internet image of a full page. Which is why I used close-ups to make the comparison.

To see how inaccurate the restorations was in the previous Fighting American reprint see my post “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”, A Must Buy. For further observations about my restoratios see my Newsarama interview.

footnote:

* Although the magenta plate has shifted toward the left that is not why there is colored ink under the black. This was done on purpose to help mask such registration problems. Had the magenta plate shifted to the right the nearby area would still be color correctly but without the overlap a white band would have appeared bordering black. The extending of colored inks under areas meant for black is called trapping. Today trapping is usually created by computer software but before that photographic processes were often used. However when trapping was done for comic books it was done by hand.

A Simon and Kirby Swipe


Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving”

In a previous serial post on Fighting American (Fighting American, Chapter 3, Jumping the Shark) I discussed the story “Deadly Doolittle” (Fighting American #6, February 1955). That story was a rewrite of a Manhunter story from Adventure Comics #75 (June 1945). In the comments Ger Apeldoorn remarked that the “Invisible Irving” from the previous issue looked like it was reused art as well. Sometime later Lucas pointed out that “Invisible Irving” was based of the Starman story from Adventure Comics #77.

Adventure #77
Adventure #77 (August 1942) Starman, art by Jack Burnley

A quick check of the Jack Kirby Checklist showed this fact was reported there as well. It was, however, news to me so I thought a comparison of the two stories might be of interest. The first thing that can be noticed right from the splash pages is that the text “Invisible Irving” was not lifted from the Starman story. The text was re-written for the Simon and Kirby piece. While what was said by the characters may be very similar the actual words were by no means identical.

However the plots were pretty much the same. Both start with a prison break aided by the use of invisible paint. The escape villain starts up a criminal gang that uses use planted valuables that unsuspecting passersby find and keep. T “lost” valuables then hypnotize the victims into committing crimes for the gang. The gang attacks one lady who instead of keeping the “lost” object intends to take it to the police. Fortunately she is rescued by the hero who removes the effect of the invisible paint the gang was using. However the main villain escapes only to be pursued by the hero. The hero catches up to the criminal mastermind at a windmill. Initially the villain captures the hero only to have the table turned on him in the end. The only reason I have summarized the plot here is to show how similar the two stories are. This summary applies equally well to either story.

Fighting American #5
Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving” page 4 panel 6

There are some small differences between the two stories. Many of the differences are due disparity between the lengths of the two pieces. Much had to be eliminated to bring the 11 page Starman story down to 6 page length for use in Fighting American. Other changes had to be made because while Starman could fly, that ability was not possessed by Fighting American. Starman also had a star-ray that could remove the effects of the invisibility solution while Fighting American had to rely on paint remover instead. Other differences have to do with the use of humor by Simon and Kirby. After the initial issues of Fighting American, Joe and Jack began to poke fun at their own creation. Scenes like the one above showing Fighting American being kicked in the seat of his pants are absent from the Starman story (or as far as I know of, from any other superhero comic book).

Adventure #77 Fighting American #5
Adventure #77 (August 1942) Starman page 2 panel 1, art by Jack Burnley
Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving” page 2 panel 1

Could the writer have been responsible for swiping the plot from the Starman story? After all one of the writers that Simon and Kirby used was Jack Oleck and he was known to do that sort of thing. However some of the art is so similar between the two stories that there can be no doubt that the artist was swiping from the Starman story.

Adventure #77 Fighting American #5
Adventure #77 (August 1942) Starman page 3 panel 7, art by Jack Burnley
Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving” page 3 panel 6

While the artist for Fighting American was clearly swiping from the Starman he was not drawing close copies. None of the figures would be mistaken for tracings. Poses were often adjusted and while the panels might portray the same events they are completely redrawn. It is the story that the artist is interested in, not help in drawing the figures.

Adventure #77 Fighting American #5
Adventure #77 (August 1942) Starman page 10 panels 3 and 4, art by Jack Burnley
Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving” page 5 panels 4 and 5

Readers may have noted that I have not said who the artist was that provided the “Invisible Irving” story. I do not remember anyone that previously credited this story to an artist other than Jack Kirby. However prior experience indicates that once it has been shown that some Simon and Kirby piece was swiped it will then be attributed to Joe Simon (Jack Kirby, Fanboy). There are many who just do not like to admit that Jack Kirby would sometimes swipe, despite all the contrary evidence that have been unearthed. If the reader chooses to now attribute “Invisible Irving” to Joe Simon, he must also credit Joe for being extremely adept at mimicking Kirby. So good that he has fooled the experts. But then again, Simon and done that before.