Monday, December 25, 2017


Merry Christmas, everyone! No review post today. I'm mostly taking this week and next off, aside from finishing up the Devil's Due G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS stuff on Friday. Sunday will bring a New Year's post, and next Monday and Friday will feature announcements for what's coming up to begin the year around here.

However, today -- in the spirit of the season -- I've decided to bequeath my blog a gift. But first, because I'm one of the most self-indulgent people you're likely to meet, a brief rundown of the history of the masthead up above. Back in 2013 when I started this thing up, it looked like this:

Pretty sparse and simple. The idea was to have the classic X-Men and Avengers corner boxes, with heads by John Byrne, on either side, with corner boxes from several of my favorite comic book runs in a row beneath -- or, in two cases, boxes from runs I wasn't necessarily huge on, but which were considered pretty important/iconic (those would be the seventies HULK, which I've read none of, and Byrne's FANTASTIC FOUR, which I've read but have never been blown away by).

Some edits were made in Photoshop: I added Angel and Phoenix to the X-Men Roster, and I couldn't find an Avengers box with the exact characters I wanted, so that one is very "cut and paste". Also, since Phoenix never actually appeared in an X-Men corner box, I had to find a neutral-faced Byrne-drawn image looking straight ahead from the same vintage, and I eventually located the picture you see at right, which I did my best to color in Photoshop.

Then in March of 2014, I decided the whole thing looked too plain for my liking. I got some free fonts from the fine people at Blambot and redesigned the logo, also using my own ingenuity to create, as best I could, the words "Not A" in the style of the old various GIANT-SIZE Marvel stuff. I added a bar across the top to mimic the "Marvel Comics Group" style of the seventies and early eighties, plus a faux Comics Code seal at the right end of the bar, and wound up with this:

Much better, in my opinion. It pops in a way the original didn't. But I wasn't quite finished, and not long after, I added Kitty Pryde to the X-Men's box, as well as a little logline beneath the row of boxes at bottom, and the thing stayed that way for the remainder of 2014.

To begin 2015, I decided to create rotating mastheads, one for each month of the year. At the left end of the topmost bar would be the "issue number" (actually the calendar number of that particular month) and month name. The colors of the bar and words would change every month as well, and these rotating mastheads have been in service ever since:

I also came up with a few mastheads for special occasions. There's one for July, depicting Ron Lim's corner box from CAPTAIN AMERICA, to celebrate Independence Day. Note that while Cap is up there, Wonder Man fills in for him in the AVENGERS corner box at right. October brings the Hobgoblin as seen in the corner box of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #250, and finds a bunch of Marvel's supernatural and/or monster characters filling in below -- plus Spider-Man in his black costume and Wolverine dressed in his Madripoor uniform (and again note that while Wolverine is down there, Iceman fills in for him among the X-Men above). Then in December, Spider-Man swings into action wearing a Santa Hat in a modification of Alex Saviuk's WEB OF SPIDER-MAN corner box from the eighties, while the Scarlet Spider covers for him below.

(There was also a special collector's item, one-time only masthead, the month I got married and went on my honeymoon in April of 2014, which depicted the wedding of Spider-Man and Mary Jane in the "extra" box, while the Scarlet Spider again covered for his clone brother down below.)

Bored yet? Well, I did warn you.

Anyway, for the one person (besides me?) who's interested in this, I've decided once more that a revision is in order. For the entire time I've had those images up there, the X-Men and Avengers boxes have bugged me. They're kind of blurry and you can see where I cut-and-pasted some of the heads into places they didn't originally exist. But I've become very comfortable with drawing on my iPad in the past year or so, and I knew I could find decent resolution images of a bunch of John Byrne's old corner box heads if I looked hard enough. Using those heads and my trusty Apple Pencil, I did my best to recreate Byrne's work at a much higher resolution, which I then colored, using the original colors from various digital comic covers as a guide, and shrunk back down. The result is a much sharper image which I think turned out pretty nice. At least, I hope I'll never be mentioned in the same breath as the old lady who "fixed" that painting of Jesus a few years ago.

In addition to upgrading the X-Men and Avengers, I've done away with the row of corner boxes below, opting instead to create a new long box featuring even more Byrne heads. With the exception of Citizen V*, everyone who was represented previously is still there, but now in full Byrne corner box glory. Also, Luke Cage has joined the lineup below, while Black Panther has been added to the Avengers.

"But wait!" you say. "John Byrne never drew corner box illustrations of Iron Fist, Power Man, Moon Knight, Daredevil, Spider-Man, the Silver Surfer, or Adam Warlock!" Good catch, eagle-eyed reader. Those characters are all fudged up above. Moon Knight is the biggest offender; that image comes from the era when he was a member of the West Coast Avengers, and while Marvel was still using Byrne's heads for the corner boxes, I don't think this is one of his drawings. (It's probably the work of Al Milgrom, who was the WCA penciler at the time.)

But I love Moon Knight and he had to be up there. And besides -- the character has such a simple design that I dare you to tell me, whether drawn by Byrne or not, that his head looks out of place among the others! As for the rest -- I found straight-on shots of Iron Fist, Power Man, Daredevil, and Spider-Man in various comics Byrne drew from the seventies. A few required some fudging. Iron Fist actually has the mouth of the Black Knight from one of Byrne's Avengers heads, for example, to replace a wide-open yelling mouth on the original version. But the pictures are, in one way or another, all pure Byrne, even when occasionally Frankensteined.

Warlock, however, is another matter. Byrne's barely ever drawn the character, and when he did, none of the vintage pictures had him looking straight ahead. So what you're looking at up there is a different Byrne head which happened to have the same cheekbone structure as he gave Warlock, using the mouth and nose of Hank Pym circa Byrne's WEST COAST AVENGERS run, plus eyes from an actual Byrne Warlock, corrected to an orientation where they appear to be looking straight-on. It's not perfect, and someday I may try to revisit it for a better result, but I'll be gosh-darned if I was gonna leave Adam Warlock off this thing!

Add to all the above some new logos to keep things fresh (again from Blambot and now The Fontry as well), and there you have it. a Christmas present from me to my blog, and a behind-the-scenes story for anybody who cares. Watch for the new masthead to go into service January 1st!

* I love THUNDERBOLTS and liked representing that run up above, but the truth is that Citizen V pretty much always stuck out since nearly every other image was from the seventies or early eighties at the latest. Plus, far as I know, Byrne has never drawn the character.


  1. Note that while Cap is up there, Wonder Man fills in for him in the AVENGERS corner box at right.

    This is some highly approvable first class pedantry which the hacks who did the covers for the Marvel Universe Official Handbook Deluxe Edition could have used a healthy dose of.

    1. Thanks, Teemu. I'm nothing if not anal retentive!

  2. Hello Matt ...I just stumbled upon your site and wow...great blog and lots of great articles . you did an amazing job with the John Byrne marvel heads. By any chance can you e-mail me a page of them all. I would even pay a fee for this . I want to get some of my friends a customized iphone case with them on it . ...Larry G...and again..if you want to charge a fee , not a problem.

    1. Hi, thank you for the compliments and your interest! I wouldn't feel comfortable charging for my versions of the Byrne heads, since I basically just traced his work. I've gone back and forth on whether or not I want to post the "clean" versions here for anyone. Let me think just a bit further, and I'll get back to you!

    2. Thank-you Matt for the reply. Much appreciated and whatever you feel comfortable with , i understand .....Larry

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