I’m betting a lot of people just read that and thought to themselves, “I can’t believe X-Men #1 was 20 years ago!” But the best selling single-issue comic book of all time — by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams — was released in 1991. As a guy who’s been producing comics for almost that long, this project interests me — although the original release was a gorgeous job by all involved, printing & production technology has come a long, long way in that time. Sounds like fun:
“I owe it all to Senior Editor Jeff Youngquist of Marvel’s Collected Editions department,” acknowledges Mason. “I’ve been re-coloring old covers for him for a couple of years now, and early last year he was putting together the hardcover edition of X-MEN: MUTANT GENESIS and he asked me to do the cover. When I got the e-mail and opened it up I got all giddy inside—it was the Magneto part of the gatefold cover to X-MEN #1!The seminal issue receives a modern-day tune-up with an elaborate re-coloring job by expert colorist Thomas Mason this October. A colorist in the industry for the past nine years, Mason has gained the unique skill of re-coloring classic comic art as seen in the recent SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK collection as well as various Marvel Essentials as of late. An avowed fan of X-MEN #1 artist Jim Lee, the chance for Mason to re-color the entire issue of X-MEN #1 had been something he’d wanted to do for years.
“After I turned the five-part cover in, I mentioned that 2011 would be the 20th anniversary and it would be cool to re-color the whole book, but it wasn’t something we actually discussed at that time. Then earlier this year he had sent me a couple more Jim Lee covers to re-color and I asked him then if I could [work on] X-MEN #1 as a pet project. Once I let him see a couple pages, he really liked what I had done and pushed to get this approved for print and here we are!”
Given the pivotal nature of X-MEN #1 in the larger scheme of modern comics history, going back to improve on such an iconic issue proved intimidating.
“One part of me is all fanboy about the chance to color the X-MEN and Jim Lee because I’ve always been a big fan of both so that part is exciting,” says Mason. “The other part of me has to keep reminding myself that this is X-MEN #1, the biggest selling comic of all time! Hopefully when it’s all said and done the fans feel like I did the book justice and reacquainted them with an old friend who just got a makeover.”
Although Marvel maintains an extensive archive of publications through time as seen in the numerous Essential volumes released each year, when it came time for Mason to re-color X-MEN #1, he found the files sadly incomplete.
“Unfortunately after 20 years Marvel only had the original color files so I had my representative Terry Maltos contact the guy who actually owns all of the original artwork for X-MEN #1 and we tried to get new scans,” he explains. “It didn’t work out so I had to take the line-art out of the original color files in order for me to set them up for my friend Rex Stabbs and my daughter Tori to start flatting for me. The advantage of having the original color files to go by is if I’m unsure what something is or just want to see how it looked before I can just open it up and it’s a nice guide to have.”