I’m a longtime fan of novelist Glen David Gold—(go get yourself a copy of Carter Beats the Devil if you haven’t read it, and then come back here; we’ll wait)—
—and I was over the moon when he contributed a funny and deeply moving essay about collecting original comic art to the anthology Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers. (Come to think of it, get yourself a copy of that, too.)
Glen recently posted the above image at the Comic Art Fans site, along with a few paragraphs about its history. Take it away, Glen:
Twenty years ago, when the first issues of the Kirby collector came out, John Morrow printed all the obscure Kirby he could find, and asked if anyone could tell him what it was and where it came from. In issue #3, he printed some great images that turned out to be part of the Marvelmania Portfolio, which was printed up when Kirby left Marvel in 1970. (This is not to be confused with the Gods Portfolio, which will figure in with this story soon enough.) I had never seen these amazing images before, and I was hooked — it was my first glimpse of undiscovered Kirby hiding more or less in plain sight, meaning it was Out There somewhere, just not in the comic books I’d read as a kid.
The Marvelmania portfolio consisted of a handful of unpublished pencil Thor and FF pages, some of them part of the rejected Thermal Man storyline — you’ve seen these around, if you pay obsessive enough attention — uninked, they show the Warriors Three in Manhattan. But there were also some other startlingly handsome splash pages. For instance, one of Odin, another of Loki and the Norn Queen. These weren’t rejected by Marvel, it turns out. In 1968, Roz told Jack to never give Marvel another Silver Surfer. Then she started pulling pages out of his finished books and saying “These are too good for Marvel. Kirby, draw something else.” So some of the Marvelmania images were those he’d withheld from publication.
Now, about that Gods Porfolio. If you’ve seen it, it’s 4 Asgardian warriors, redesigned by Kirby in 1966 or so to have all the colors and costuming of Fourth World characters. The portfolio cover was the inked version of a pencil piece found in the Marvelmania Portfolio. It’s in Albert’s gallery. It’s an unpublished Thor page from the storyline where Thor is learning Galactus’s origin.
I’ve been researching Kirby’s 1968-69 work at Marvel recently. My articles in the Kirby Collector have focused on the weirdness of FF 74-77 and Thor 158-169, two storylines that seem to have had more stops and starts and detours than Beijing traffic. I think Jack turned in stuff that Stan turned down, Jack learned about the Surfer being co-opted, he tried to give Galactus an origin, Stan shut it down… then apparently Jack recycled some of those FF pages into the later Thor story, but it’s unclear how that exactly worked.
But one thing is pretty clear: he started doing a storyline in the FF that he then tried to do in Thor. And while he was attempting the impossible (coherence in the face of an inhospitable work environment) his wife was yanking pages that were too good for Marvel. That’s a roundabout way of saying that I don’t know if a certain unpublished image in the Marvelmania porfolio — my favorite — was intended for Thor or for the earlier FF storyline. This is the piece of art I now own.
Here’s all the reasons I love this: I feel like Kirby only drew Galactus in action, the way he meant to, once, in the original FF 48-50 trilogy. The later FF appearance was truncated, and if you read it, Galactus never leaves his ship and never fights the FF or interacts with the Surfer. I suspect Kirby had originally meant to built up tension until the final confrontation, which never ended up happening. When Galactus meets Thor, it’s a weird, anti-climactic thing — Galactus versus Thor in a talkfest that the mid-career Brian Bendis would shake his head at as too much dialogue not enough action.
It’s not 100% clear where this would have fit — probably Thor 162, given the battle with Ego that Galactus ultimately takes on. But there would probably be a page before it, at least, to set this up — a page I haven’t seen. Did Jack rework it again and fit it in somewhere else? How far did he get with this more exciting and aggressive fight scene? There are no margin notes. The space for a page number is blank. It’s a mystery.
This splash is 100% action, 100% power, overwhelming in its detail and its passion. Jack was firing on cylinders he didn’t even know he had when he drew this. It’s from his period of peak creativity and he drew it not to show off a pin-up but to forward the action, be part of continuity, keep the pots boiling. He drew a total of eight splashes featuring Galactus, including this one. Had Roz not pulled it, and had Stan not gotten in the way, this might have eventually been inked by Sinnott, Klein (possibly ghosted by Everett) or Colletta. That’s a mighty coin flip, and I’m glad no one ended up inking it, as it’s now the only surviving Kirby Galactus pencil splash known to exist.
I’m glad I ran into this piece as an adult and could evaluate it without the childhood goggles on. I’ve been lucky in my collecting career to find stuff that’s — to me — beautiful, historically-interesting, little-known and inspiring. Some of the art I own might be more expensive than this but none is more valuable. Thanks for looking at it.