Here's an example of how comic book companies used to treat the
work of great artists. The above cover was drawn in 1975 by Alex Toth for
Limited Collectors Edition #C-41. Or at least, he drew all of it except for
the head of Superman.
Toth did not draw a bad Superman. He designed the Super
Friends cartoon series which was then seen every Saturday morning on ABC.
The Toth Superman appeared on that show, and it also appeared inside this comic
and on the back cover, for which Toth drew another group shot. But apparently,
the editors at DC felt that the particular drawing Alex had done for this cover
was wrong or sub-standard or otherwise unacceptable. So they literally chopped
off the head of the drawing he did. The original artwork was physically cut,
and the Superman head that Toth drew was thrown away. Here's a scan of the
original art, courtesy of collector Frank Giella. Notice that in the margin,
where Toth autographed this piece for someone, he wrote, "Please excuse the
The head that was put there in place of what Alex drew is a
photostat of a Superman head by Curt Swan. They probably took it from this
This was a 1966 issue of Superman (#183) with what seems to
be the same head, though it may not be. Swan drew thousands of Superman heads
over the years and probably produced many identical to this one. Incidentally,
this particular cover also seems to be a paste job. One suspects that since
this particular design required such simple art, the editor decided to save
money by building it around a drawing, perhaps previously published, that Swan
had done for another purpose. From at least the crotch down, it's not by Swan,
so it looks like they had some artist in the production department slap in the
stats of interior pages, then draw in the fingers and the legs and maybe the
belt and trunks, as well. I think the inker of the Swan section is George
Klein. I dunno who drew those oddly-configured thighs but it wasn't Swan or
Klein. And I'll bet neither of them would have failed to draw in the rest of
Okay, so the Toth drawing was altered. Now, what happens 25+
years later when DC decides it would make a dandy poster?
Above is a new poster that DC Direct is issuing of the cover drawing that Alex Toth provided for that 1975 special. As you can see,
it's not the Swan head on Superman. It's a Toth head. One might assume that DC found an old stat or the original art to Toth's original
version...but one would be wrong. As I mentioned, the head was actually razored off the original art and discarded. So did they go to
Toth and have him redraw the head today? No, they didn't do that, either.
So how, for this poster, did DC get an Alex Toth Superman head on an Alex Toth Superman body? Easy: They stole the head from the
Remember I mentioned that Toth drew another group shot for the back cover of that 1975 special? This is it. For the new
poster, someone took a stat of the artwork for this cover, cut out the Superman head and stuck it on the front cover drawing. (They didn't harm
the original art that Toth drew for the back cover in '75. That was long since returned to Alex, who was nice enough to give it to Yours
Truly. It's on the wall in my dining room.)
I haven't heard what, if anything, Alex thinks about this -- though I assume he prefers the new version to what was published in
'75. I sure thinks it looks better and of course, it's nice when the drawing is actually by the guy who signed it. So assuming Toth
approved it, good for DC.
In fairness, I should point out that prior to around 1980, there was a lot of this in the comic industry. Folks who worked in
comic book company office thought nothing of redrawing and retouching artists' work; of chopping up the original pages and not allowing an artist to
correct his own art. I don't blame anyone for this and even (I'm embarrassed to admit) did a little of it myself when I was in editorial
positions. But I think it's important to note that it was done and that it isn't, for the most part, done any more. And I think it's
especially important to applaud in those rare instances when it gets undone.