This being the opening weekend of Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie, The Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it an opportune time to show a couple of pieces of original art from my collection. One of the stars of the film is Groot, a tree-like alien (”that walks like a man”, I feel compelled to write!). Groot first appeared in Tales to Astonish #13, just one of a myriad of giant monsters that filled Marvel’s comics back in the late 50s and early 60s.

Tales to Astonish #13, Groot, Jack Kirby

Tales to Astonish #13, November 1960

“I Challenged Groot, the Monster from Planet X!” told the stirring tale of a henpecked scientist and his role in bringing down the eponymous monster. It was a slight, though entertaining story with art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayres. The script was most likely provided by either Stan Lee or Larry Lieber. The vast majority of the monsters that stomped through Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense were one-offs, soon forgotten. But clearly Groot had a certain something. He was revived in the mid-1970s and went on to become a player in the latter day Guardians of the Galaxy.

I have pages four and five of that initial outing and they can be seen in all their glory below. Click on the images for a better look.

Groot page 4, Jack Kirby

Groot page 5, Jack Kirby

One of the fascinating things that can be seen by studying the originals up close is Kirby’s original pencil lines. These days pencilers tend to supply extremely tight pencil art that the inker is expected to faithfully reproduce. In the Silver Age though, when artists were drawing multiple books each month, pencils were often much looser. The inker then tightened up the drawings in ink and made the final choices with regards shading and line weight. In the panel below you can see how inker Dick Ayers only nominally followed Kirby’s lines—click for a better look. The finished artwork was more of a synthesis of the penciler’s and inker’s styles.

Kirby pencils, Groot

If you look really closely, you might notice that the remains of the original lettering is just visible. I can’t quite tell whether this is Kirby’s lettering, but it does look as though whoever it was originally intended this to be a thought balloon rather than spoken dialogue.

All in all these pages provide an interesting glimpse into the production process of comics in an era now long past. As for Groot? Well, I’m sure he’s destined for great things.

Images TM & © Marvel Characters, Inc