Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charlton alterations and a Joe Gill theory

At his his excellent Marvel Mysteries and Comics Minutiae blog, Nick Caputo has been writing about Marvel cover alterations and pre-alterations.  These are his latest posts (as I type this), so, to see them, just start at the latest installment and work back.  Most interesting to me is the  Alan Class unaltered Atlas/Marvel covers account, which documents British publisher Alan Class' use of pre-altered Atlas/Marvel cover art--"stats," to be precise, which I presume were comic cover proofs submitted for editor approval.  Class' reprints are a familiar part of my personal comics history--In the late 1970s, while stationed in Scotland in the (U.S.) Navy, I regularly purchased Alan Class Marvel and Charlton reprints to read on the train to Edinburgh, but tragically I wasn't inspired to keep these cheaply-printed, b&w digests, maybe because they seemed designed to be read and quickly tossed.  I was just performing what seemed to be my consumer duty....

But in recent months I've amassed a small, affordable (read: cheap) pile of Class digests, and Nick's posts inspired me to check these closely for any original/reprint cover discrepancies between Charlton and Class editions.  Sure enough, I found (stop the presses) five.  Nothing exciting, unfortunately--no stats in evidence.  Just a deft cut and paste job performed by Class on the cover of Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, No. 40 (February, 1964).  Comparing the Charlton version to the Class reprint, we see that Class compressed the text in the astronaut's log (left side):

Close-up of the compressed text:

A simple case of cutting out the space between paragraphs.  Rudimentary, but it had me stumped for a moment. 

And Class must have been using original, pre-cropped Chartlon covers.  (I always assumed comic covers were drawn to size, but apparently not always.)  So, courtesy of Class' Uncanny Tales (third scan below), we get to see a significantly wider version of Bill Molno's Space War (No. 18, Sep., 1962) cover for, and splash from, the weird Charlton self-send-up, "A Look at a Backward Planet." Here's the Charlton cover and splash, followed by Class' reprint:

One of my favorite Molnos, by the way, with Molno on pencils and inks.  The art is like late-'60s underground, no?

I found another Class alteration in my small pile--of a multi-paneled Steve Ditko space cover--but the changes are so minor, I won't bother posting them.  They're nothing more than a few items moved around to save room in the uppermost panel.

Way more dramatic is the following very cool instance of Charlton altering Charlton--Bill Molno's cover of Unusual Tales (#35, September, 1962), which turns out to be a significantly revised version of the splash for "The Hiding Room," the tale of a highly eccentric character who retreats underground (literally) and meets a moonlighting Outer Limits creature.  For the front, someone wisely decided to tone down the protagonist's bizarre dress, removing the hat, glasses, and clown pants for a more conventional look, even if readers might wonder why someone would be wearing his Sunday best in a smoky, torch-lit cave.  Then again, this is Charlton, so maybe not:

The splash panel only underscores the wisdom of the cover-art revamp.  Both cover and splash are highly memorable, I think.  "The Hiding Room," by the way, starts with the classic line, "The world was entirely too much with Bronson Leeds."  "With"??  Ah, Charlton.

Molno, again, from June, 1962--and another instance of splash-page alteration.  Here's the cover, followed by the splash:

I guess the cover image was deemed more dramatic with the lady blacked out and the fleeing hero rendered a chalky white?  These changes do give better balance to the composition, even if they leave the guy in a very awkward pose, but the revised image strikes me as a bit too sparse.  I should note that neither the splash nor the splash-derived cover have squat to do with the story in question, "Ranga's Eye,"yet another madman-uses-TV-to-take-over-the-world Charlton plot, told here with even less sense than usual.  I offer my pan affectionately, as there's something endearing about the abrupt resolutions typical of Joe Gill's six-page Charlton suspense/horror tales, wherein a bad guy suddenly (and minus any evident reason) changes his mind, or a grave threat is suddenly revealed to be no big thing (shades of the Ebola virus!), or someone is offered a handy, end-of-story entrance into another realm, and so on.  In this case, the titular Ranga has taken over half the globe via his TV, radio, and street broadcasts when two mental hospital attendants show up and take him away.  End of story--world takeover averted.  Male attendant to guard (last panel): "It's all over!  Ranga Vishuna is a mild paranoiac who was in our care when my wife and I Worked as attendants in a mental hospital!  You'd better relase the officials who are the legal heads of this government right away!"  You can't make this stuff up, but Joe Gill could!

I guess we can't laugh too hard.  The original Star Trek, which was taken way more seriously in its day than Strange Suspense Stories, featured its share of madmen halted in their evil by some utterly fake plot contrivance--say, the William Campbell character who was about to kill off the Enterprise crew when his space parents appeared, just in time, to scold him and apologize for his actions.  (Did you happen to catch that one during any of its 10,000 reruns?) "Ranga" is comedy; Star Trek is compelling sci-fi.  Life's not fair!


1 comment:

  1. Lee, Great to see these interesting alterations. In the case of Unusual Tales # 35 I suspect the powers that be thought the Molno character on the splash looked too outre for the cover. I also have great affection for Joe Gill's abrupt, "What Th?" endings. Charlton was an unusual company but one that has a distinctly individual personality, and I'm beginning to enjoy Molno's art more and more with your assistance. Keep 'em coming!