Monday, February 09, 2009
Touched and retouched
I knew when I bought Tower of Shadows #1 off the stands in the summer of 1969 that something was wrong. The lead story by Steranko was great, but the story credited to Johnny Craig — THE Johnny Craig of EC fame, Vault Of Horror, Crime SuspenStories, Extra! — just didn't look like Johnny Craig. As I found out from reading this, it was and it wasn't:
The following year , when Marvel launched two "ghost" comics, some there felt they'd found a place to better utilize the skills of Johnny Craig. He wrote and drew a story for Tower of Shadows #1 but, again, Stan did not feel the result looked like a Marvel comic. As with Craig's one DC job, the work was retouched so thoroughly — in this case, by John Romita — that no trace of the original artist's style remained. --Mark Evanier, POVonline, September 20, 2001.
It was obvious looking at the artwork that it'd been retouched by Romita, but there are traces of Craig in the writing, which was probably also heavily edited by Stan Lee. On page two, a couple of panels show the main character upset because "Janie" is expecting a baby, now of all times, when a dozen creditors are hounding him. An unwanted pregnancy and need for money, that's a story in and of itself, but after those panels it drops into nothingness. It has nothing to do with the story itself, about a man exposing phony mediums. Craig was too careful a plotter and writer to create a situation and then let it languish, so I suspect there might have been something edited out. I'm not even sure why what was left in remained, since it added nothing to the plot.
What is Craig are the panels in the rain. I go back to the EC Comics. A man in an overcoat with his collar up, wearing a fedora, leather gloves folded down at the wrist, a gun in his hand, waiting in the rain. Craig could really draw noir scenes like that, and that's the closest part of "From Beyond the Brink" to the Johnny Craig I knew from EC Comics. Some artists flourished under the Marvel style, others didn't. Sadly, Johnny Craig was one of those whose artwork probably belonged more to a time and a place that, in the Marvel era, had past.