Board moderator Gormuu has been generous enough to let
me post some comments regarding some recent blogs.
Just to be clear, my name is Michael Kelleher. I am a freelance artist that does a lot of work for the Marvel Masterworks line of reprints.
I can speak with 100% accuracy on many of the attacks,
untruths and misinformation being spread around regarding Masterworks art restoration because I am directly involved with the process.
I hope this information will spread as quickly and thoroughly as the false information.
Here is what I can attest to being false and/or misleading:
"Marvel have a stable of artists who they keep very quiet who's sole job is to redraw classic Marvel art for inclusion in their Marvel Masterworks line"
While it's true that Marvel employs reconstruction artists, as do DC and other publishers, I have never thought Marvel to have been "quiet" about it.
I've been working on the Masterworks for four
years now, and it has been just short of two years now since the first announcement of artwork I've reconstructed being offered for auction to benefit the
Hero Initiative. It was covered by Newsarama and just about every major and minor comic news source for almost a month, and the conversations about the
recreations have been almost constant since then.
I have also never known anyone associated with Masterworks to deny or keep secret the fact that artwork is sometime reconstructed. Obviously, the editors have discussed this in interviews, though I think their words have been twisted recently to fill misinformed, preconceived conclusions.
It has also recently been implied that all the recon artists recreate the pages on paper. This is 100% false.
I am the only person since the Masterworks relaunched in 2003 to employ a combined process of traditional, "on-board" and digital methods to reconstruct pages. The other artists do all of their work completely digitally (with the exception of one artist that I know that adds the step of bleaching color out of printed comic pages before scanning them and finishing digitally).
Talking with Marvel's editors over the years, I know that decades ago when the first Masterworks were published, Marvel's John Romita-trained art department did on-board corrections in reproducing the Masterworks, but that's because it was the only avenue available at the time. They also hired Don Heck to reconstruct Tales of Suspense #50, but as has been mentioned on this website, the Masterworks' editor discovered a set stats for the issue last year and they were used in the recent Iron Man Omnibus.
An important fact to note: All of the recons I did on paper could not pass as the original art to a buyer with even the slightest knowledge of original art. The paper is closer to print size than the twice-up size used into the late 1960s, and the board stock differs from what was available in the 1960s.
An aside: I gave up the practice of recreating artwork
on paper well over a year ago. I'm always striving to find the best method to carry out the rare full reconstruction page, and left the on-board process
"Oddly enough one of the excuses provided by Marvel for this recreation work was the lack of original art out there, but John Byrne has confirmed that he owns at least one page that Marvel had redrawn and would have happily have scanned it or made it available for inclusion in the relevant volume."
I don't know whether Mr. Byrne made the availability of his artwork known before or after the book including his page was published. I know Marvel makes attempts at repro'ing from original art whenever possible because I've colored many pages from original art scans/copies. I've also tangled with deadlines up to the last second because Marvel has been holding the presses for original artwork promised by collectors that has never arrived.
The FACT is that when Marvel makes the decision to
reconstruct a page it is because film/photostats no longer exist and other avenues (original art) haven't brought any results. There will be people who say
"Marvel should spare no expense!", but I feel that a reasonably intelligent person will realize that is not possible. Original art for most issues
now have the pages spread across a dozen or more collectors, most of whom remain anonymous in their ownership of the artwork.
Also, there are original art
collectors who have declined to help Marvel with scans of the artwork they have, so knowing were artwork is doesn't always help.
"You're not buying what you've been told you're buying. Not even close. In some cases you're buying all new material recreated by artists who probably weren't even alive when the original comic books came out."
I'll leave my age out of this :-) There are two ways I could read this sentence, so I'll comment on the negative way it can be read... Aside from Golden Age Masterworks, no volume of Masterworks contains all reconstructed material. In fact, the vast majority of volumes have no pages reconstructed from printed comics, and majority of those that do are a single-digit percentage of the total pages in the collection.
There have been some unfortunate situations where
entire issues/stories needed to be reconstructed-Amazing Spider-Man #29 in the ASM Omnibus, for example-but that is a big exception to the rule.
"Anyone with a lightbox can produce a line-for-line recreation of another artists work. Adapt the covers, introduce new elements, do it in your own style, these are all things that good artists do."
It is not what a good RECONSTRUCTION artist does. My job is to try and give the Marvel reproductions of artwork that would not be easily indistinguishable from the original printings and that is what I and my fellow recon artists do.
"Iron Man Vol 4 Marvel Masterworks. Yep, if you own a copy of that book then the bulk of the art contained within was not drawn by Gene Colan even though he gets the credit and the covers and splash pages bear his signature."
The "bulk" of that volume was not recreated. Certainly, that volume had more pages than average that needed to be recreated (33 total), but that is completely misleading to say it is the bulk of the collection
"Michael ( Kelleher ) has not only been drawing covers for Marvel, he's been very busy pumping out interior pages."
Well "very busy" is a matter of opinion, but Marvel does have a great line of collections going and I'm proud to contribute to them.
"In the case of the Spider-Man Omnibus you can be assured that the bulk of the material is recreated art."
I would not consider 32 pages out of 1000+ to be the "bulk" of the book as is "assured" in the above quote. 20 of those pages are the aforementioned ASM #29.
"For all we know the entire volume is one big recreation."
It is not. I worked on every page of the ASM Omnibus and literally 97% of the book was done from photostats, film, or original art. (Remove ASM #29 from the equation and 1% of over 1000 pages was reconstructed.)
"Instead Marvel elect for the more economical route and farm out work to artists that they'd not normally hire to draw books for them in any other capacity."
Marvel, that sounds like a dare. You need to hire me to draw a current issue of ASM to set this accusation straight! No? How about Power Pack? Bring back The Smurfs? Do they still make those Hostess Cupecake ads? I could draw one of those!
"A lot of high quality stats also do exist. However it's cheaper for Marvel to hire an artist to trace the images for inclusion and then sign the art with a forgery of the original artists signature."
This is 100% not true. First, it is more expensive to redraw a page than it is to scan photostats or film. I'd think that common sense would make that obvious. Second, in every case that a high quality stat exists (or even if low quality stats exists) Marvel uses those. Period.
The statement "it's cheaper for Marvel to hire an artist to trace..." is hardly an opinion. It's a fact of your own invention, and you are not entitled to your own facts.
I work on the books and work for Marvel. I was part of
a team that carried out a full inventory of Marvel's entire photostat archive, and unfortunately, some material has been lost over the years. That is a
fact. My experience is first-hand. I question whether anything more than wild conjecture supports assertions otherwise.
"The Hero Initiative is a worthy cause, but how about giving the profit from a recreation of Gene Colan's work to Gene himself?"
That was one of the options I debated before deciding to sell the artwork for charity. I went back and forth with a number of comic professionals that I trust to give me honest, intelligent opinions, and the decision (by a very small margin but for a large number of reasons) was to donate the money to The Hero Initiative. Was it the right choice? I still question that myself, but nevertheless, I feel it was a good choice, and it's benefiting creators who need the help. Between the money the creators whose work I'm helping to bring back to print receive from Marvel and the money generated with the Hero Initiative, I feel I'm doing my part to contribute to their legacy.
It is too bad that these inaccuracies and aspersions
have caused the controversy they have. It's also unfortunate that it has put two people who both seem to love comics at odds. In my professional experience
I've always found that working with people and taking the time to build an informed understanding brings the most productive result. That applies with
Marvel and it applies with the vast majority of comics employers I've worked with over the years. You might yield better results in the future by trying to
work with them to achieve your goals rather than giving in to your frustrations and deriding those of us who do try and make an active difference.