And Stan, or whoever was writing the editorial reply, jokingly refuses to answer the question.
It's good for a laff and fits right in with the jolly and jovial tone of the Marvel comics letter column replies, but it results in a sad gap in our knowledge of early Marvel: who did color Jack Kirby's FF? Longtime readers of this blog may note that whenever I reproduce panels or pages from a comic, as much as possible, I try to credit all the creators involved: scripter, penciler, inker, colorist, letterer. Every one of 'em, every man Jack (and Stan and Steve and Don and Roy and Gene and woman Marie and all the restcontributed to our favorite comics, and even if it's in 9 point type, I do try to pay homage to the men and women who toiled away to bring us such great flights of fantasy. Even when I make a joke about Vince Colletta, he still deserves credit for his work.
My recent "365 Days with Ben Grimm" project, however, has brought to my attention the sad fact that those early FFs did not carry a colorist credit, and it's hard to ID that work. You or I could ID a few dozen pencilers, inkers, and even letters at thirty paces, but there's not a lot of ways to identify a individual colorist. Online databases, too, haven't filled in the info even after a period of years, so it's likely that without the aid of some serious comics scholar or a Kirby expert like Mark Evanier, we're probably never going to know the many artists who colored Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four artwork, let alone specifically the colorist of #38.
Well, sure, we don't know the colorist of those early Kirby Klassics, but (you're thinking to yourself) surely we gotta know who did the later ones. We certainly must know the colorist who first made Galactus's spacey armor red and green (with shorts and summer sleeves), right? Um...well, no. Fantastic Four didn't credit a colorist on the splash page in issue #48, the first appearance of the Big G. In fact, Marvel did not credit a FF colorist until...well, go ahead now. Take a guess. What issue do you think there was first a colorist credit printed in Fantastic Four?
Got your guess of which issue it is? Let's see if you're right. Is it...this one?
That's right. Colorists were not credited in the FF mag until ish #130...January 1973, where Petra Goldberg was added to the credits box. That's nearly twelve years into the magazine's run...two years after Jack Kirby left.
It's a shame we don't know who colored FF #1-129, these powerful and influential examples of contemporary superhero art. There were likely dozens of talented artists who worked on these books, turning four colors into the Negative Zone, Attilan, the Microverse, Monster Island: the brilliant blue of the FF uniforms, the earthy orange of Mister Ben Grimm, the glorious green and grey of Doctor Doom. Sure, I love the Marvel Essentials black-and-white volumes, but there's a dimension missing there, a spectrum of shade, a polychromatic passion: one of the many brilliant and bright reasons that so many of us fell in love with the dynamic comics of Marvel.
Until some clever scholar or researcher finds records, can identify the work, or even simply points out in my comments that I'm missing a reference to their identities elsewhere, however, let's all salute the grand pantheon of Unknown Colorists: they made the Marvel universe a more colorful place. And, especially, give a rainbow-tinted toast to the artist who Ben John of Mt. Carmel, PA wondered about: the colorist of Fantastic Four #38:
Final page from Fantastic Four #38 (May 1965), scripted by Stan Lee, penciled by Jack Kirby, inked by Chic Stone, lettered by Sam Rosen, and
colored by the Great Unknown Colorist of FF #38.
Addendum: As I suspected, it's Mark Evanier who has a pretty good answer: it was likely Stan Goldberg. (Thanks, Mark!) And author Eric Houston wrote in to say he checked with Kirby expert John Morrow, publisher of The Jack Kirby Collector and gave me an authoritative confirmation: “His answer: Stan Goldberg colored most of the early [FF] issues.” Thank you too, Eric 'n' John!