Is It Real?

One of the common questions about all collectables is about authenticity. For some things, there are factories of forgery artists. Most paintings are not reproduced and known in detail by large numbers of people. In the following two examples, for instance, which is the forgery and which is the original? If the original was (a) widely know and (b) reproduced and in everyone’s possession, you could tell. If you do not have that information, you simply cannot tell.

Comic and illustration art is different in that the original art is detailed and complex, usually filled with unique imperfection that few have seen in person, and it has been printed in thousands and thousands of identical copies at low resolution on bleed-friendly newsprint. In other words, the original art is not widely available, and the art that is available does not contain all the information you need to reproduce the original – and so it is damned difficult to figure out how to lay down the hundreds and hundreds of pen lines and brush strokes that it takes to end up with the poor reproduction that everyone has in front of them.

Some nice examples, from the Kirby Museum, are given here.

This is the published page 1 from Fantastic Four #48:

Is this the original art?

Is it not a bad job. As you will see, below, original art pages are never ever this “clean” around the edges. But even at this poor resolution, these two pages look completely different to me.

Take a look at the face of the Johnny Storm (taken from the image files above… and reading faces is much easier when they are right-side-up):
The image on the right (as printed in thousands of comic books) is not derived from the ink art on the left. Period. The differences are not at all subtle.

Here is another example:

The line quality, angles, spacing, etc., are all off. Again, the image on the right, as printed, cannot be derived from the one of the left. It was an attempted forgery and easily detected.

Now take a look at this page from Captain America #201:

You can see a few remarks, guidelines, and blue lines. But more to the point, there can be no doubt that the image on the left was copied and colored to give the one on the right. Every spacing, all line qualities, every angle… it’s a true copy derived from the original.

And many pages of original art are much more highly remarked. From Fantastic Four #63 and Thor #152.