It’s a great article and should be of interest to many of you collectors. There is definitely an aesthetic draw to printing, paper stock, even manufacturing errors.
As an artist that’s done his own printmaking and matrix creation, selections in those factors can do a LOT to increase the aesthetic appeal of a piece. As a reviewer of collected editions, it’s often hard to make a call on a particular volume.
It’s amazing, but understandable, how divided the comics community is on the subject of how to treat reprints. There are so many factors that come into play.
The artist’s original desires, historical value, the original presentation. The fact that some artists worked assuming said original presentation but that they may have changed it if they could have.
Even aging artists’ questionable aesthetic sensibility concerning their past material (Neal Adams, etc.)
I find these images to be very illustrative of the challenges inherent in approaching this media. They’re from Fantastic Four 49 and the Omnibus Vol. 2 reprint, I think. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.
Jack Kirby, along with an unknown original colorist (possibly Kirby himself or cover artist Joe Sinnot), created the first image as they created most of their work.
Quickly, powerfully, and with the intention of reaching as many young readers as possible.
Their long term archival intentions were probably negligible.
But I think it would be wrong to suggest that Kirby, at least, didn’t think about the printing when he worked on the original art.
His bold lines were obviously designed to make the action as clear as possible in a media that often gave way to smudged and muddy pages.
It’s too bad that our historical colorist isn’t clearly credited. I’d love to know more about how they thought.
Personally, I think he may have used the colors the way some use watercolors (or how I used to use certain inks in the printmaking labs.) Knowing that they would bleed, the colors seem arranged to flow into each other, using the white space as a mingling area.
That first image features aesthetically pleasing gradients between green and yellow on the hands to the right of the panel, for example. The color shift in the white also feels like that area is more a part of the figure.
Of course, the reproduction is clearer, perhaps easier to read.
There’s no “right” answer here. It’s art and will always be subjective.
In an ideal world, every page would consist of smart paper, where at a touch we could flip between pencils, inked linework, original colors and restored colors.
Perhaps that’s what the future holds for collected editions.
But for now, we’re lucky to have bound reprints along with excellent curated blogs like Four Color Process, where you can see those ancient panel details you or your grandfather may have overlooked in the rush to find out what happens next.
Head on over there to read their essay and view more of those wonderful little dots.