Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Improvement?

This 1972 cover to Action Comics #419 is one of only a handful of times that penciller Neal Adams and inker Murphy Anderson worked together. Iconic, it was the pride of my original art collection for the twenty years that I owned it. To this day I use this Superman head as my avatar over on ebay. Here is what the printed comic book cover looked like:
That's correct, a photographic cityscape background was added, wonderfully successfully. Here is a vintage interview with former DC Comics Production Manager Jack Adler in which that gentleman makes clear that using a photographic background on this and other covers was his innovation (and did you know that the recently deceased Mr. Adler was a cousin of broadcaster Howard Stern?).

But the background was never affixed to the original artwork. Rather, a photostat of the Superman figure was pasted onto the New York City background on a separate, camera-ready production copy. A couple of years back I saw that page of production artwork in a gallery show, and it was somewhat striking to see the complete black-and-white cover image after having been so accustomed to seeing the white-background artwork that I had owned for so many years.

In 2006 I decided to downsize my art collection and I did allow this fabulous page to be grabbed out of my clenched fingers. While it was up for bid on ebay I received a very generous Buy-It-Now offer from Stephen Fishler of New York's Metropolis Comics and I even got a phone message from the son of Neal Adams, but the auction carried on to its closing seconds.

The winning bidder was a nice gent named David Mandel. Maybe you've heard of him? He was a writer and co-director of the movie Eurotrip (David receives one-third of a nickel for every copy sold of the DVD!) and he also wrote for ten episodes of Seinfeld. Just about every page of artwork I sold back then I packed for shipping myself (between two masonite boards) but this gem I left to the professionals at The UPS Store; David commented to me when he received the package that it was amazingly well packed (which it was; I think there was even a trap door in there someplace) and at that point I went back to UPS and passed the compliment on to the young man who had packed it (and gave him a little tip!).

So that was years ago, but then last week I happened to be searching online for the Action 419 image. Look at what I found:
This is in David Mandel's comicartfans Gallery Room, and in the description David thanks Gordon Christman for adding the photographic background to the artwork (PLEASE BE SURE TO READ THE UPDATE BELOW). I know that museums from time to time touch up masterpieces in their collection and David owns this page of artwork and it's his to do with as he sees fit, but I don't think I would have done this. That's just me! Maybe I might have imposed a photostat of the Superman figure onto the background while leaving the original drawing undisturbed, and then displayed the two versions side by side. What would you do?

By the way, David's collection on display at is incredible. You can view it here.

If I were a proper journalist I would have thought to contact David Mandel about this matter beforehand rather than inviting him to read the article after it went live. David wrote me a note this afternoon saying that he did not permanently affix the background onto the artwork. "It is not attached, I would never do that to art," David explained to me in a gentlemanly manner. Rather, the cityscape is on an OVERLAY. I hereby apologize to David for having jumped to an incorrect conclusion.


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