It'll be a while before Paul Ryan, the comic artist stops being mistaken for Paul Ryan, failed Republican vice presidential nominee, but to me, the name is synonymous with the Fantastic Four books of the 1990s. I've written before of my affinity for him and his art, but suffice it to say that he's one of my favorite comic artists of all time. This is undoubtedly the product of his classic style mixed with the fact that he drew my favorite book, but it still needs to be said - I like the guy's work.
I finally worked up the edge to e-mail Mr. Ryan a few weeks ago, and to my delight he wrote back a few days later. Eventually, the conversation turned to original artwork and I ended up purchasing a page from the fabled Fantastic Four run. It showed up in the mail on Monday, so I took a few pictures!
The artwork in question is page 20 (27 if you count ads) from Fantastic Four #390, part of the "No One Gets Out Alive!" storyline that saw the Fantastic Four and friends searching for the lost-to-time Reed Richards. Paul did the pencilwork on this page and inks, if memory serves (i.e. I didn't look it up) are by Danny Bulandi, a longtime collaborator with Ryan on the book.
What's great about this page - beyond the nostalgia of owning some artwork from a book I grew up reading and loving - was the sheer number of characters featured on the page. You've got the Thing (a must) and the Invisible Woman from the FF, you've got related characters like Ant Man and the Sub Mariner, you've got a classic cosmic character in Uatu, the Watcher, and to top it all off, the first panel is a statue featuring the four original Fantastic Four members in their original costumes with Four Freedoms Plaza in the background.
The first panel on the page is actually an overlay panel, meaning that this panel was cut and pasted over what was originally there. I love all the different production aspects that this page shows, and this is my favorite. Of course, I really want to know what was underneath it, but I'm not going to go and pry the new panel off to find out.
This page has more than a few great shots of the Thing, which, of course, was one of my criteria for buying it. It had to feature the Thing, and this page doesn't disappoint. Also, I'll say that I was a big fan of this version of Sue Storm's costume, which didn't stick around for long.
Here's some exciting news, perhaps news that I shouldn't curse by giving away before the fact: I'm about 95% certain that Paul will soon be providing a cover for a future issue of Teddy and the Yeti. This is really exciting! I'm sure he'll do a great job - and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it does actually happen.
I picked up some similar items on eBay recently. Above and below are color guides for pages from Fantastic Four #392 and Wonder Man #15, which features a hearty helping of the Thing (and is an Infinity War crossover book, which to my 11-year-old self was AWESOME!). Color guides aren't original line art - it's a photocopy of the inked art that a colorist uses to figure out how he/she is going to color the originals when the time comes, hence all of the markings with different color designations. So basically the book's colorist uses this page to practice for the real thing.
Since almost all coloring is done digitally these days, color guides don't exist anymore, or at least not en masse like they used to (and certainly not at big publishers like Marvel). And only one copy exists of each guide, so I picked up a pretty cool, unique item of comic artwork. Love how the Thing looks in the Wonder Man page.
Let's wrap up this original art-themed post with one more item - Rafer Robers sent me the original art for the "Yeti Rhyme Time" strip he put together for Teddy and the Yeti #5! The board is much bigger than I imagined, and it looks great. Every time I get original art, I tell myself that I need to frame it and display it immediately, and it's no different with this batch. But there's nowhere near enough room to do so, so it's a matter of picking and choosing, I suppose. It's a good problem to have.