Saturday, March 29, 2014

The mystery of Adam Hughes's 1992 Fantastic Four cover

I've found my way to a few items of comic book production art lately.  I enjoy seeing the process that artwork goes through on its way to being a printed page.  I remember seeing the above image a while ago - a few years, at least - and it popped up on eBay again recently.  There's nothing unique about it in that it's a production transparency, made for coloring purposes on its way to the printer, but it's the image itself that caught my eye.  This image, if I'm not mistaken, has never been used by Marvel and certainly never for the cover of a book.

There are several sheets to this item, each revealing a different layer of color.  It's interesting to see everything come together to create a complete image.

If this image was never used before, then what was its purpose?  "Inventory" stories are not uncommon at Marvel - self-contained stories that were completed and saved in case a regular creative team missed the deadline to go to print - and that is the most likely answer to this question.  Of course, it raises other questions, namely if there was a story that went along with the cover.  Since it made its way to the film transparency stage, chances are that it's not just a pinup that someone did of their own accord.

With this in mind, I took a picture and tried to find out a little more about this mystery cover.  There's no signature on the art that I could see, but it reminded me of that of Terry Dodson, who had drawn this FF cover:

Thanks to the magic of the Twitter, reaching out to people you don't know is easier than ever before, and it was helpful in this case:

Soon after I had sent the inquiring tweet, Terry Dodson wrote back:

And, of course, he was right.  I don't know why (beyond the similar styles), but I often get art from the two mixed up.  I sent another message on to Adam Hughes, and he replied just a little while later:

This in itself was a mini-breakthrough, as I now had confirmation on who drew the piece.  The next question I asked was about context - was it for an inventory story?  A poster?  A pinup?  A reply came soon after:

This is a bit of a roadblock, of course.  The next step is to try and contact the editor of the book around the time it was drawn.  The copyright date by the "4" logo says 1992, which was right at the beginning of the lengthly Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan run.  The two never missed an issue until they were replaced several years later, so if this was for in inventory story, it was never needed.

Who knows if this mystery will ever be solved.  This is a very cool piece of art and it gains even more notoriety since it's never been published before.  We'll see if I can't figure out its origins at some point.

After I found out that Hughes drew it, I found a scan of the original inked art online:

Maybe one day.

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