Scans of original art are from the Kirby Museum's Original Art Digital Archive.
Scans of pencil art photocopies for the Kirby Museum's Pencil Art Photocopy Archive courtesy of the Kirby Family, with thanks to TwoMorrows Publishing.
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On the back the title word "FOURTH" has been picked up enough graphite from Jack's drawing board to be readable.
Yet on the front the word "FOURTH" is a paste-up in the same style as the traces seen on the back of the page.
Also the lettering in the paste-over doesn't match the style of the title word "HOST."
Good eye! If I'm reading it correctly, the original was misspelled as "FOUTH", hence the paste-up. (Bonus points if you can spot another 'Fourth Host' typo elsewhere in this issue. Drove me nuts, as it was already a heady passage without a homophone mix-up adding to the confusion.)
I think the style variations, like drop shadow, are used to help differentiate each word and make the title more readable—especially when words are squished together, as above—as well as to make the display type more visually interesting. In the comic, the words are also colored differently, adding to the effect. The same technique can be seen on the last page of this same issue (for the teaser to the next issue, 'City of the Toads').
Good observation, Doug. I agree with your assessment. The graphite impression on the back of the page definitely says "FOUTH", not "FOURTH"; so that must be the answer to Patrick's question. I also agree with your analysis of the lettering styles, which suit the art perfectly.
The other typo is on page 22, panel 2, where it's spelled "FORTH".
I noticed another mistake on this page which was corrected in time for the printed version. The indicia says "January, 1976 issue"; but in the actual comic it shows 1977, as it should. It looks like someone went in and changed it manually before it went to press, although there's no trace of the change showing here. But forget the bonus points. I want a No-Prize for all this eye strain!
Looking at this issue again made me remember why I loved it so much when it first came out, about forty years ago. Has it really been that long? I guess that means we're only about ten years away from final judgement by the Fourth Host. Let's hope we pass the test!
Oh my gosh, there are actually multiple corrections to the indicia. In the published comic, the prefix "bi-" was covered so that it reads "Published monthly". Even the copyright date looks like its last digit was handwritten, as if it had been corrected to "7" and then changed back to "6". I also notice there's a built-in gap around the issue date, apparently to allow room to change this monthly without having to reset the entire indicia.
(Incidentally, the "bi-monthly" correction gap starts around issue #4 and then closes in issue #9. Prior to that, in issue #3, there was a widening of the indicia and a gap on both sides of the frequency, as if to allow for correction. In #9-11, the gap persists, but occurring after the frequency. Finally, in issue #12, it tightens up fully, with no gap. Not sure why we need to know this, or if we do, but there it is.)
Also, it occurred to me: It's not actually graphite that reveals the original misspelled title, but the strength of the black ink, illuminated by the scanner light (possibly aided by bleed-through). Unless Royer's board was covered in graphite, the paper wouldn't tend to pick up impressions from his inking.
I just recently read this whole series for the first time, and this issue stood out to me as a particularly good one. I enjoyed being brought back to the characters stranded at the temple (Ajak and Doctor Damian) and learning that Celestials can convert beings into capsule form, as stored atoms. A fun concept. My favorite aspect of the series are concepts like this, doled out on a need-to-know basis, plus Kirby's talent for juggling multiple characters, settings, and plot strands. It works well up through issue #13 (The Astronauts), after which the book gets kind of squeezed into the mold of a standard superhero title and loses its unique storytelling fizz.
Interesting. For sure the indicia variations existed because of the exact reason you point out, Doug: so the production department could make any necessary changes on an issue-to-issue basis without having to re-set the whole thing each time.
Looking at the back of the page again, I'd say you're correct about the image being that of the original lettering illuminated by the scanner light as opposed to being a graphite impression. That definitely makes more sense.
The problem with the series going a little off after #13 has been discussed many times, both here and on a number of Kirby Facebook pages. Obviously Jack buckled somewhat to the demands of the Marvel editors in New York and the results were harmful to both the quality of the stories and the sales of the magazine itself. Having said that, I still think the subsequent material was far better than what we were getting in any non-Kirby comics of the time; it just wasn't quite up to the towering standards set in the first thirteen issues. But there's no denying, for example, that Dromedan was a very cool villain and that the two final issues had a really solid, entertaining storyline.
The "bi-monthly" thing made me wonder if Marvel were on the cusp of reducing the frequency of publication, as a way to lower costs and give the comic more time to build an audience. If so, there might have been other considerations, such as Kirby's contract (with a specific # of books or pages per month) or their own publishing and distribution agendas, that kept it as a monthly. Then again, perhaps an easily alterable "bi-monthly"/"monthly" indicia was simply a matter of routine at that time; I have no idea.