Thor appeared for the first time in Journey into Mystery #83.
The cover of that comic, drawn by Jack Kirby, is quite famous
It is not widely known however that the first version drawn by Kirby was modified before being published. Here are both side by side. The unretouched cover has been published in the volume "Origins of Marvel Comics", by Stan Lee (1974).
My guess is that the original version was rejected because it was considered too "cluttered"
Since I Fantastici Quattro (FQ) had 48 pages to fill, with no advertisement, the Italian publisher frequently packed two issues of Fantastic Four (FF) in the same Italian issue. This was the case with FF #2: the first 14 pages were published into FQ #1, the rest in FQ #2 along with FF #3. The original FF #2 cover was not published, but was used instead, recolored as usual, at the beginning of FQ #2 as a kind of splash page to recap what happened the issue before.
Now the interesting part: Marvel Comics used to make a film/photostat of the original inked cover, and store it away. It was not uncommon however that after that Marvel (even Stan Lee himself) would ask for modifications of the original drawing.
Take a look at the published cover of FF #2
The cover printed in an internal page by Editoriale Corno was slightly different: (here on the left)
The cover received by the Italian publisher Editoriale Corno was different from the one published in the original Fantastic Four #2. Notably Johnny Storm, in the US version has flames around the body while in the Italian version there are no flames. At first I thought that Editoriale Corno simply did not like the flames and erased them. However it turns out that this is the original, unpublished, cover of FF #2.
A proof of this can be found in the Official Marvel Index to the Fantastic Four, published by Marvel Comics in 1985, where the unaltered covered can be found
The baloon of the Human Torch saying "My flame is out" was obviously deleted from the printed US version (since the flame was on), and from the Italian version since the baloons on the covers were always erased.
Is this the only unaltered cover published in Italy, directly from the film/photostat, that is different from the original US one? Not at all! Stay tuned ;)
It is time to address the colors of the scanned picture. This is mandatory for all old comics, often having faded colors and yellowed or browned paper. The ultimate goal would be to restore the art to the state it was a minute after it was printed. It is impossible to do this for many old comics, for reasons that we will explain, but we can do a pretty good job. Let’s see how.
There are many “philosophies” when it comes to retouch colors on old comics, and various “recipes”, from very simple and automatic to very involved and complicated. With time you learn to judge what is the best for your situation, depending on the goal you want to achieve.
Before continuing: it is always a good idea, instead of permanently modifying the pixels of our image, to use nondestructive modifications. In Photoshop this means using adjustment layers, so that if you change your mind you can always go back. In the following, for simplicity, I will work directly on the pixels. If you do so remember to save the unmodified picture and work on a copy.
If the comic is not very old and it is not dirty or damaged the simplest thing to do (but by no means the best) is to use some automatic command from your favorite photo editing software.
In PS CS5 using Image>Auto Tone
Or Image>Auto Color
The other Auto command, Image>Auto Contrast, is not useful in this case since it will increase the contrast equally in all color channels (Red, Green and Blue) in the same way so that the colors will not be modified.
However, for serious work with old comics there are better way to keep the color adjustment under control.
Adjusting levels “by eye”
In Photoshop open the Levels command (Control-L or Image>Adjustments>Levels)
Note that both the black and the white of this panel are rather dark gray and light gray. In fact look at the histogram (the RGB channel): the luminosity levels go to zero well before going to the true black (0, to the far left of the histogram), or to the true white (255, to the far right of the histogram)
By the way: if you click the Options… button a new panel will appear showing the Auto commands we used above
Quick for the web
If we want to clean an image to be used on the web we usually want white to be pure white, (255,255,255) in RGB lingo, and black to be pure black (0,0,0)
For a quick fix you can use the black and white eyedroppers
Start with the black: grab the black eyedropper
and click in a place you believe should be pure black. You can click in different places until you are satisfied.
Now the black is “really black”. Repeat the procedure with the white eyedropper tool
and here the quick result
Remember that while you are inside the Levels command, by pressing the Alt key the Reset button will appear, and you can go back to your original image inside the Levels command and restart working from there.
Here is the final result
While adjusting the white it is tempting to use it to “whiten” dirty spots on the yellowed paper. Beware that by exaggerating you can end up with crappy colors like this
Even worse, if you work with old comics with very yellowed pages like this