A couple of weeks ago on Cap’s “Golden Age of Reprints” blog, Luke mentioned The Watcher’s early solo back-up features which ran in Tales of Suspense and Silver Surfer, but there was some confusion as to whether those stories were originals or reprints, so I decided to inventory them myself and present my findings here for everyone’s information and edification. The stories which appeared in Tales of Suspense were entirely original, however those which appeared in Silver Surfer were adapted from earlier sci-fi/fantasy stories, albeit redone as "Watcher Tales" with entirely new artwork.

Tales of Suspense series:
#49. “The Saga of the Sneepers” (reprinted in Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #3)
#50. “Journey’s End” (reprinted in MCIC #5)
#51. “The Primitive” (reprinted in MCIC #19)
#52. “The Failure” (reprinted in MCIC #13)
#53. “The Way It Began” (reprinted in MCIC #9)
#54. “Hands Off!” (reprinted in MCIC #10)
#55. “The Sun-Stealer” (reprinted in MCIC #20)
#56. “The Watcher’s Sacrifice” (reprinted in MCIC #21)
#57. “The Watcher’s Power” (reprinted in MCIC #23)
#58. “”The Watcher Must Die” (reprinted in MCIC #24)

Silver Surfer series:
#1. “The Wonder of The Watcher” (story adapted from Tales of Suspense #53)
#2. “The Coming of the Krills” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #8)
#3. “”Why Won’t they Believe Me?” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #7)
#4. “The Terror of Tim Boo Ba” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #9)
#5. “Run, Roco, Run” (story adapted from Tales to Astonish #26)
#6. “The Unsuspecting” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #13)
#7. “I, the Gargoyle” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12)

And to cap it off:

Marvel Super Heroes #23: “Melvin and the Monster” (story adapted from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12)*

*Penciled (as well as inked) by Tom Palmer.

I hadn’t realized back-ups from Silver Surfer were “new”; I thought they were reprints of The Watcher’s back-up series from Tales of Suspense. I was also surprised (and pleased!) to discover that I own the entire series of ToS back-ups reprinted in MCIC. Unfortunately, I have only the first two of the seven back-ups from Silver Surfer.

It’s very interesting (to me, anyway) to compare Gene Colan’s layouts for “The Wonder of The Watcher” to the “The Way It Began” by Larry Lieber. The splash page of Lieber’s original is comprised of three panels, which Colan “decompressed” into three pages. What’s striking is the similarity of the images within those panels. Either both artists were working from a highly detailed plot (which I doubt), or Colan used the original story as a guide (which is much more likely). I would love to see a collection of these early Tales of the Watcher, and I enjoyed comparing and contrasting “The Wonder of The Watcher” to the “The Way It Began” so much, I hope there would be room for the original sci-fi fantasy stories the later ones are based on as well.

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Just wondering: Are the earlier story's creators credited in the redone Watcher stories?

Also I'm presuming that having the Watcher (a MU 616 character) relate the stories would mean that none of them could end "...and then the aliens took over the world!"

ie none of the stories could contradict 616 continuity?

But I do know that he could see into alternate realities in the What-if stories, so maybe its not a consideration.
Now that I have finished reseaching the stories I have begun to read them. The early ones are little morality tales, cautionary parables, really. It's unclear to whom he might be narrating, but many of them are set on Earth in the 21st century. Presumably, he's using his equiptment to peer into the future, or, metetextually, a series of possible alternate futures. Either that or he's trying to make the tale of some other planet he has observed more relevant to his audience.

There is no indication in the second series that the plots were reworked from earlier stories. Most if not all were all plotted by Stan Lee with script and art by Larry Leiber. Stan simply reassigned his own plot to another artist and provided a new script to the finished artwork. The Silver Surfer (the comic book) was very much Stan Lee's baby, and I have a theory. Most of the adaptations were taken from Amazing Adult Fantasy, stories that were written and marketed to appeal to a somewhat older audience than Marvel's other sci-fi/fantasy mags. I think he was more proud of these particular plots and thought they were best suited to back-up the Silver Surfer stories, also a cut above standard superhero fare.
CORRECTION: I was mistaken yesterday when I posted, “There is no indication in the second series that the plots were reworked from earlier stories.” In fact, the credits box of the Watcher Tale in SS #1 reads, “A Marvel Cameo-Classic Recreated,” and the story from #2 contains the following caption: “NOTE: We are constantly besieged with requests to reprint the most imaginative science-fiction tales of STAN LEE, acclaimed as one of the greatest fantasy writers of our time! In compliance with your demands, the highly-gifted GENE COLAN has enthusiastically volunteered to ILLUSTRATE ANEW these now-classic works of wonder! Hence, we proudly present the latest step in Marvel’s march to glory.” I have the story from #3 reprinted in Astonishing Tales #31 and it has no such indication. I haven’t read the stories from #4-7.

Since yesterday I have finished reading all of the stories which originally appeared in ToS #49-58, SS #1-3 and MSH #23. Back to the question of whether or not these stories contradict Earth-616 continuity, I think the answer depends on whether or not one considers those old fantasy tales to be in continuity. For my own part, I consider any previously story referenced after the beginning of the “Marvel Age” to be in. I believe The Watcher reserves the right to change certain details, however. For example, “The Coming of the Krills” is a better fit if the alien race in question are the shape-shifting Skrulls.

Concerning the theory I posted yesterday, consider Stan Lee’s own words about the Watcher series from Son of Origins of Marvel Comics: “One other point about the Watcher story itself that I possibly should mention is that you’ll probably notice it has a moral point to make. In fact, although it was written quite a few years ago, it points up a philosophical problem which seems to be facing our own nation today, namely, the problem of whether or not those who have great strength should intervene in the affairs of those who are weaker, no matter what their motives may be. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed stories which can be approached on two levels, both as pure entertainment, and as challenging, thought-provoking appetizers for intellectual nourishment. To me, a story which doesn’t give you something to think about, which doesn’t stimulate you, or anger you, or make you ask questions you might never though of asking before -- to me, such a story is only half a story. And, whenever possible, I like to give a reader his money’s worth.”
Back in The Jack Kirby Collector #36 Mark Evanier wrote, “Jack once told me that he’d deleted a long sequence with The Watcher from an issue of Fantastic Four and later used it in Thor.” There’s nothing so very unusual about that; Kirby would often draft his pages in “blocks” which could be shuffled within the same issue, to a different issue or even to a different title. What is unusual is that there aren’t really any “long sequences” from Thor which feature The Watcher. One possibility is pages 15-17 of issue #169, although that’s not particularly long. Another is pages 6-13, but those don’t feature The Watcher… or do they?

Recently, in TJKC #52, John Morrow, with the help of Shane Foley and Sean Kleefeld, examined a number of unused pages from #168-170 (many of which can be seen in Marvel Masterworks: Thor Vol. 8), and using the page numbers which appear on the original art, attempted to reconstruct the story as originally intended by Kirby. The article presents a strong and compelling case that Kirby intended to link Galactus’ origin to The Watcher’s raison d’etre, making The Watcher responsible for the creation of Galactus. Evidence suggests Kirby may have had this idea in the back of his mind ever since the two were first shown confronting each other in Fantastic Four #49 and the editorial edict not to allow this development to play out as Kirby intended may have been additional grist in the mill of Kirby’s dissatisfaction with Marvel.

There are several possible reasons to change the story and omit so many (13, from the three issues) already-penciled pages and so drastically rearrange the ones that were left. First of all, because Kirby wasn’t known for following titles he wasn’t assigned to, it’s unlikely he aware that a origin story for The Watcher had already appeared. Also, it was around this time that the short-lived edit came from on high (probably from publisher Martin Goodman rather than editor Stan Lee) that continued stories were no longer permitted, which may have led the Galactus origin sequence to have been truncated.

Because I can’t adequately summarize a profusely-illustrated 10-page article in a single post, I suggest that those interested pick up a copy of The Jack Kirby Collector #52.

Are there enough pages and stories to warrant a trade paperback collecting them all?  Or perhaps including the Tales of the Wasp as well?

 

I recall reading all the Silver Surfer back-up stories as they came out.  Some were OK, some were obviously re-treads. ALL featured new artwork.  Yes, I suspect Gene Colan had the originals right in front of him to work from.

 

Another note:  The story "Why Won't They Believe Me" was reworked by John Byrne to fit into a skrull storyline that inserted Reed Richards as the scientist, and has the same pay-off.  I believe it appeared in an early issued of Marvel: The Lost Generation mini-series.  Unfortunately, it contradicts early Stan-Jack first appearance of the skrulls as it pre-dates that first contact by several years, and implies that Reed KNEW of the skrulls far earlier than he lets on in FF #2 (1961),

Jeff-J has made a very good summary of the reasoning behind the truncated Galactus story in Thor.

It always seemed abruptly eneded to me, without a real pay-off.

(Recently re-reading FF #36, the first appearance of the Frightful Four, I was struck by how quickly the fight wraps up, with an off-camera voice saying, look out, they've escaped...they're destroying the ship! BOOM!  Fight and issue are over.

Evanier speculated for me that this was probably a case of Jack getting carried away, thinking he had one more page to go, and having to get everyone off-camera (like in the end of Hamlet) as quickly as possible.  As a kid, I never noticed the abrupt ending, just reading and accepting it like a bon-bon at the end of a very satisfying adventure.  It was years before I got to see the cameo cross-over with Thor when the evil FF are scared off from raiding the Baxter Bldg by the flaming aproach of Blader the Brave to save the day with Thor and Jane Foster over in Thor.!!)

Kirk G said:
Jeff-J has made a very good summary of the reasoning behind the truncated Galactus story in Thor.

Thenk yew. Buat as you say, it's just a summary. Real credit goes to John Morrow, Shane Foley and Sean Kleefeld.

Kirk G said:
Are there enough pages and stories to warrant a trade paperback collecting them all?

I don't see why not. I, for one, would certainly buy it.
Perhaps if the page count were a little shy, Marvel might contract with John Morrow to reprint the in depth article, if it was outstanding?  I know that they have cooperated with TwoMorrows in the past, regarding the "Lost FF Issue" that wrapped up Jack Kirby's artwork on that series.   I would like to think that they will be open to considering that.  Especially if they're looking for another unique Marvel Masterworks volume, don't you think?

Speaking of the "Lost FF Issue," did you know that since the publication of the "restored" version, another of the original pages has surfaced!?

 

Photobucket

Yes, it's funny how that works.. I guess the additional publicity turns up some things.

Perhaps in subsequent versions or reprintings (yah, sure) they might be able to insert the page in the proper place.

Do you recall what the additional picture shows?

 

This triggers another memory.  When John Morrow and company began the discussion of the "lost Kirby issue", I recalled the tale vividly, and how disjointed it felt, but I couldn't exactly say why.  Something about the narrative just didn't make a lot of sense to me.  It was one of the last Marvel comics that I bought off the rack before stopping for 8 years of high school and college.

Anyway, I determined that it had been reprinted in Marvel super-heroes #88 (original FF #108, so it was easy to calculate what I was looking for) and I picked up and issue in a back issue bin somewhere. Setting down with the Jack Kirby Collector and with the reprint book, I WAS SHOCKED to discover that at least a full page of artwork had been dropped when reprinting.  This was the first time I had actually realized the problem of differing page counts and how frequent the practice had become during that time period to drop a page or two of the artwork to make it fit.

 (and sometimes, it didn't work well enough.  I recall an issue or two of Marvel Spectacular reprinting some classic Thor issues of the appearance of the Wrecker or so, and the reprint editor not only had to drop a full page of artwork, but had to do panel by panel surgery, cutting some panels, pasting in others, to try to make the story flow over the eliminated art.

Also, the captions that he added were of a differing lettering style, and so, REALLY stuck out like a sore thumb.) I was disgusted, even though he had don the best job he could.

 

Do you recall what the newly discovered page of FF #108 artwork was showing? Which page is it?

 

I don't recall, but I really need to track it down so I can photo-copy it and keep it with my "Lost Adventures" HC.

 

It was printed in an issur of TJKC (so it shouldn't be too hard to find), and had MST3K-style dialogue added.

Of course, the crazy thing about FF #108 is that it was supposed to be in FF #102.  The Sub-Mariner/Magneto story that appeared in FF #102 would have appeared in #103...  (I think it's a real shame that Kirby's final issues of FF and THOR were both the first part of a continued story that he didn't get to finish.)

 

And speaking of Subby, his later ASTONISH episodes were butchered when reprinted in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES.  At the time, Subby had 12 pages and Hulk had 10.  But in MSH, both had 10.  Until they started cuitting back, then Subby sometimes had 3 OR 4 pages per episode cut.  How do you cut ONE-THIRD of a 12-pager and expect it to still make sense?

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