This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Welcome back Expectant one! It’s been far too long. But worry not, for this Tale more than makes up for Old Festus’s tardiness. A classic PRIMECUT from Tales To Astonish #11 (1960), “The Mask of Drothor” is on offer. It has been said this entry influenced Stephen Kings (Richard Bachmann’s) Novel Thinner, and with its plot centering around a Gypsy curse, there are similarities. I’ll leave it up to you gentle reader to come to your own conclusions on that point, however.

But let us tarry no farther, relax, sit back, inhale that musty aroma of old newsprint, and feast your eyes on the lurid magnificence beneath!

2 (2)

Great panel to panel progression shown throughout this story. Love this page in particular. Ditko carefully leads the reader across the page with strong lines of action running left to right meet diagonal lines that flow down to the next tier. Great understanding of the real estate of the page in evidence. I particularly enjoy the framing of the running protagonist with his own shadow in panel 6. Masterful stuff!
Oh dear, Markas couldn’t “mask” his disappointment! Nice wee twist and in 4 or 5 comic pages, who can ask for anything more? These short twist-ending tales are difficult to pull off, as many writers can attest. An interesting set-up, with a compelling plot, concluding with a clever twist? Stan and Steve do grand work here.

DEEP CUTS: Analysis! Let us now make a few incisions into the narrative we’ve just experienced. Ol’ Festus will roll up his sleeves and get down to the bones of the story!

line of action
Here is a quick depiction of the panel flow that Ditko has set up. These lines are no accident, and Ditko is careful to ensure the reader is reading right to left and is being carried effortlessly through the story. We see this throughout his work, his storytelling is always a strong feature of his work.
line too
More left to right lines of action!

And now a look at a different but still important feature of storytelling. The work of the colorist! Oft overlooked these individuals worked uncredited during this era, but are integral to the final product and as we shall see can add so much to the clarity of the storytelling.

It’s come to my attention that Stan Goldberg (best known perhaps as a key Archie artist for many years) was a key colorist during this period of Atlas/Marvel. He seemed to be everywhere at this time, so I’m assuming that this story in its original incarnation is his work. If so it does display many hallmarks of his style. A style that I think is particularly good at emphasizing storytelling and is bold and confident in its use of subjective color in a way that makes later representations of the work seem a little dull and indeed timid.

Stan is focussed far more on making sure the storytelling is clear by grouping elements in the panels and separating the various planes into the foreground, middle ground, and background. Stan effectively locates the center of interest and the emphasizes key emotional or narratively important moments with color “dropouts” to produce -even with a more limited palette available to him- a superior effort than I feel those who followed him in later reprintings achieved.

Tales-to-Astonish-11-29 color comparison
Stans original coloring Tales To Astonish


Stan here focusses on plane separation. Isolating the central figure, and the center of interest, in the warmest (relatively representational) hues. The middle ground is dropped out in blue, the rats and the old man are grouped together with the paintbrushes to create a consistent plane that won’t interfere with the reading of the panel. At a glance, you can instantly scan what is occurring. The close foreground is again grouped in a shade of purple and of crimson -pink. These elements are texture and give context but do not distract, Stan seems acutely aware of the limitations of the comics printing process. the muddy blacks, the misregistered colors poor quality paper combine to compromise the end products legibility. So he makes his work bulletproof.

Stan doesn’t mind if these aren’t representational hues, that’s not important. the story is what matters here and I feel he serves it well with his choices.

Marvel Masterworks hewed closely to Stans colors. Even with today’s superior printing technology, Stans choices hold up.

BONUS ADDED FEATURE: the covers to the comics these reprintings appeared in!

A little Wrightson and Kirby goodness as an aperitif!

cover 1Tales-to-Astonish-11-01RCO001_1489999329