George Wilson, The Great Cover Painter

As you may be aware, I try to feature an example of what I think is a great comic book cover each month. However, I think it’s a good idea to dedicate, from time to time, an entire blog post to a perhaps lesser known cover artist and show a few of their great covers. It’s been a while since I’ve done so (I’ve actually only done this once before when I featured Ernest Nordli), I thought I’d give a gander at some of the work of George Wilson.

Wilson was exclusively a cover artist who illustrated covers for Dell and Gold Key from the 1950s into the 1970s. He never did interior art in comic books. He was a trained illustrator who brought his skills to creating eye-catching action poses for such Dell/Gold Key titles as Turok, Son of Stone; Tarzan of the Apes; Ripley’s Believe It or Not; The Phantom; and Lost In Space to name but a few.

His illustrations featured realistically rendered people (males mostly) doing battle against some kind of foe, be it human, animal, robot, dinosaur, or some mythical creature. There were also covers with people being menaced by ghosts, monsters, or aliens. He did covers depicting scenes from conventional war to outer space battles.

He always depicted his characters as looking more or less like regular albeit very fit human beings. There were no super-muscled men and women on his covers. That wasn’t the kind of stories Dell/Gold Key assigned him to. Even the more conventional superhero-type characters of the robot fighting Magnus and Doctor Solar looked more like Olympic athletes than the Hulk. More William Holden, less Lou Ferrigno.

Wilson’s covers were all full color paintings, not line art with color fill. And it is clear he used models. I can’t be certain, but a similar male face shows up from cover to cover, could those faces have been his?

His is not a name we hear often when talking about great artists in comic book history. That’s a shame because his work was consistently great!

Let’s look at four pretty good covers, shall we?

Turok, Son of Stone #13 (September-November 1958): This series had our hero battling a lot of dinosaurs, apparently. I love the swoop of the brontosaurus’s neck. The rendering of the dinosaur may no longer be anatomically accurate, but it’s dwarfing of our heroes is terrifically done.

Boris Karloff, Tales of Mystery #13 (March 1966) Another number 13 cover, is there a pattern here?! Maybe not.

That face created from the fumes wafting from those urns is superb. There’s anguish mixed in with anger on that green visage. And Wilson’s use of the lantern to provide the light source for the scene is nicely done.

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #19 (April 1967) Hey, it’s not number 13.

Anyway, this is just terrific. The determined grimmace of our hero’s face, the glowing yellow outline making the villain pop off the the page, and those hands! So good!

The Twilight Zone #43 (May 1972) Talk about intense! This cover is almost photographic. That expression on the bellhop’s face, his uniform, the pose, those hands! Wow! How did he model that position? The buildings and the traffic below are rendered just enough for the feeling of realism. And is that a window washer or is it Batman in civilian clothes scaling the building?

Holy falling bellboy! This is a great cover!

Well done, Mr. Wilson!

(Two sources used for this blog were The Lambiek Comiclopedia and Paul Tobin (Dot) Net.)

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

Mike Nesmith: 1942-2021

In September, 1965, the call went out. Television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schnieder were looking for four young, male, hip, musician/singer/actor-types to be part of a wacky TV show inspired by The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Hundreds auditioned and eventually four were picked.

The Monkees are here, mayhem will surely follow.

Micky Dolenz had acted on television as a boy, under the name Mickey Braddock, in the short-lived TV series Circus Boy. (Short-lived in that it only lasted two seasons, but it churned out 49 episodes. Breaking Bad lasted five seasons amassing 62 episodes, only 13 more than Circus Boy. Times have certainly changed.) British actor/singer Davy Jones had gained popularity for his portrayal of the Artful Dodger in the stage musical Olivier! and made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, sharing the evening’s bill with the aforementioned Beatles. Peter Tork, a Folk musician who could play several instruments, was recommended by his friend Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) after Stills’ failed his audition. And then there was Mike Nesmith, the tall Texan in the wool hat, which he wore to keep his hair out of his eyes when riding his motorcycle. (A helmet would have done the same thing and would have been more protective.)

The members had been selected and The Monkees were born.

Into the studio, both television and recording, the boys were whisked to make history.

The Monkees TV series was also short-lived. It lasted only two seasons and aired 58 shows. (58?! Jeepers! Breaking Bad, you are such a slacker!) The show was also awarded two Emmys. It may have only lasted two seasons, but its impact is still felt today.

And there was the music.

The “Pre-Fab Four” often get dismissed because they didn’t play their instruments on their records. They didn’t write their own songs. But, so what? Elvis Presley didn’t write his own songs. The Beach Boys almost exclusively used session musicians on their albums. Besides, Nesmith did get one of his songs (Papa Gene’s Blue) and another he co-wrote with Gerry Goffin and Carole King (Sweet Young Thing) on the band’s 1966 self-titled debut album. Mike went on to write more songs as time passed. In fact, some of his compositions are among my favorite of The Monkees’ catalog.

Mike Nesmith died last Friday at the age of 78.

He and Micky Dolenz (the now sole surviving member of the band) had just finished their 2021 Farewell Tour in mid-November and had plans to appear together on a cruise next year. That may be why Mike’s death came as such a shock. He was just touring, wasn’t he?!

I know Mike Nesmith was more than his participation with The Monkees. He worked in television, film, and video production. He was executive producer of the cult classic Repo Man (1984). He pioneered music video production and his long-form music video Elephant Parts won the first ever Grammy for Video of the Year. He was also a pioneer in country rock with his second musical outfit First National Band.

But I will always remember him as the coolest member of The Monkees. I will always remember him as Wool Hat.

A short list of Monkees songs sung by Mike Nesmith, some of which he also wrote:

Me And Magdalena from Good Times (2016)

Tapioca Tundra from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968)

The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith vocals) from Headquarters (1967 – 1995 CD reissue bonus track)

Papa Gene’s Blues from The Monkees (1966)

What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round? from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967)

You Just May Be The One from Headquarters (1967)

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Jonny Quest, Hadji, & Jade Make A Great Cover

The original run of Jonny Quest from 1964 to 1965, on prime time television, just might be my absolute favorite animated series, especially from my youth. The first season or two of Scooby Doo, Where Are you? were good. As were Star Blazers and Underdog and, in my young adulthood, Batman: The Animated Series was really impressive. But Jonny Quest holds a special place in my heart.

I’ve blogged about Jonny Quest’s first series before and listed my three favorite episodes (see here), so I won’t go too deep into why I love that series so much. To put it in a nutshell, despite its forays into the supernatural, that series was more realistic, both in its stories and in its animation. Characters died in that series, which added a decided sense of danger. And, as a kid, I appreciated that realism. No one ever died on Scooby Doo.

And that series looked like a comic book, thanks to Doug Wildey, a comic book illustrator who created the characters and the shows animation style. I loved comic books as a kid (still do). Maybe that’s the reason I dig Jonny Quest.

It was inevitable that the series appeared in comic book form. Gold Key did a one off adaptation of The Mystery of the Lizard People (the first episode of the original series) in 1964. Then in 1986, Comico began publishing Jonny as a comic book series.

And that is where this month’s great cover comes in!

It is issue #5 (October, 1986), which was illustrated by the great Dave Stevens. Stevens’ well-disciplined, classic style feels both old school and modern. On this cover, he uses lots of flat black, which was a staple of Wildey’s Quest shows, so it captures the animated series feel and sets up that our heroes are facing danger in some dark back alley in some exotic location. Jade’s .45 automatic, Jonny’s oar (why does he have an oar?), and Hadji’s look of apprehension also tell us there is danger afoot.

Stevens puts fear in the faces of Jade and Hadji, while infusing Jonny and Bandit with defiant determination. Just what sort of trouble has this group found itself? And, is that the shadow of a bad guy on the wall?

His style doesn’t overuse lines. Dave Stevens was a master of form using just enough linework. His illustrations were never busy with lines, lines, lines. (Something the following decade’s comics would be plagued by, in my opinion.) His clothes feel like they are filled with bodies. His backgrounds offer enough detail to understand the setting without looking busy. And, of course, Dave Stevens certainly could draw the female form well. Something he was known for.

It’s a great cover.

Oh! Wait! Maybe Jonny has an oar to indicate they are in a port city! Shanghai or Hong Kong, perhaps?

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

You Know What’s A Really Good Movie About An Old Transylvanian Vampire Who Moves To England?

Well, the first 20 minutes or so are really good, then it gets rather stagey.

It’s the movie that saved the floundering Universal Studios. It’s the movie the made a Hungarian actor, who was having difficulty grasping English, a star. It’s the movie that kicked off the Golden Age of Horror films.

Of course, I’m referring to Tod Browning’s 1931 horror classic Dracula.

It wasn’t long after films began to talk when Dracula went into production. There’s plenty of talk and sound effects in the movie, but very little music. In silent films, music was used to help set the tone, mood, and emotional content of the scenes. Music was part of the storytelling. However, as I understand it, in the early days of talkies musical scores were ditched in many films, because producers thought music would be a distraction. It more likely had something to do with the Great Depression and attempting to keep costs down.

So, Dracula does not use a score to enhance the mood and emotions of the story. The film does open with some tone setting music from Tchaikovsky” Swan Lake and closes with a brief bit of music, but for the rest of the film the background is filled with silence. That really works for me in this and in that other horror classic Universal would release later that same year: Frankenstein. To me the background silence of these two monster movies adds to their atmosphere of horror. It’s eerie. And, in the scene in which Dracula (Bela Lugosi) creeps toward a sleeping Lucy Weston (Frances Dade) for a late night nibble, it is so much more chilling in the silence. In 1998, composer Philip Glass put a score to the film. I found his score distracting.

Enjoy the silence.

The story begins with a young and ambitious Mr. Renfield, who has traveled to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula in order to finalize the purchase of an old, broken down abbey in the English countryside. Renfield, played brilliantly by Dwight Frye, is unfazed by the dire warnings of the local villagers to not go to Castle Dracula. But go to the castle he does.

He is unceremoniously dropped off at Borgo Pass where he is to be met by a carriage from Dracula’s castle. The carriage is there and has a mysterious and silent driver, who is the Count himself. (I guess he was trying to cut costs on staff. It was the Great Depression, after all.) It took years me to catch onto to the fact that Lugosi played the driver. I guess I’m slow.

Once Renfield arrives at his destination after a harrowing carriage ride, he cautiously enters the run down castle and we get to see a wonderful set. The high ceiling, soaring columns and archways with moonlight streaming in from the glassless windows dwarf the tiny figure of Mr. Renfield. Then we meet him – Count Dracula. There on the steps, he greets the young businessman and leads him to an upper floor of the castle.

Did he just walk through that spiderweb?! And the web is unaffected?!

A more pleasant and inviting room is reached and the business is commenced. Some wine and food are provided to Renfield, but the host refrains from drinking. “I never drink… wine.” (I love that line.)

Heh heeh heeeh heeeeeh.

Without giving away too much, Renfield is… recruited into Dracula’s service and the pair make their way to England aboard a ship called the Vesta. When the ship arrives, the crew is found dead, but Renfield is still alive, but quite out of his mind, providing the creepiest moment of the entire film.

From there the film begins to feel like a stage play. There’s a lot of standing and talking. The camera stays locked in place for most of the film, but there is a wonderful crane shot taking us through the courtyard of the Seward sanatorium, passing patients enjoying a sunny day, and moving into the cell that houses the disturbed Renfield. In the scene, a guard has taken away the spider the poor wretch had intended to eat. But other than that there isn’t much happening with the camera.

But, it was 1931 and the film does create a mood of horror, a creepiness. And it set the standard for the horror films that followed.

The not-so-thrilling climax has Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) and Jonathan Harker (David Manners) chasing after Dracula to rescue Harker’s fiance Mina Seward (Helen Chandler) and to destroy the vile evil vampire once and for all. The destruction of Dracula takes place off camera, we just hear his gasps as Van Helsing drives a wooden stake through his heart. And while that is happening, we watch Harker run around searching for the missing damsel.

“Now, now, Renfield!”

You are probably aware there was a Spanish version made by Universal at the same time the English version was being made. The Spanish version would film at night, using the same sets. And they would watch the dailies of the English version and they would do what they could to improve the scenes. And the Spanish version is a livelier production. Many think the Spanish version is superior. And it is in many ways, but its casting isn’t nearly as good.

One of the casting shortcomings of the Spanish version is the part of Renfield. In the English version, Dwight Frye is brilliant. His Renfield is fantastic. His subdued yet menacing laugh is incredible. I don’t know how he came up with it, but it is so unnerving. In the Spanish version, Pablo Alvarez Rubio decided to portrait his Renfield as way over the top crazy. It’s humorous and entertaining, but Frye’s Renfield feels crazier by not going so big.

And Frye nearly steals the show, but…

Bela Lugosi is perfect as Dracula. He wasn’t the first choice, though. That was Lon Chaney, but Chaney died before production began. Universal still didn’t want Lugosi, who was playing the roll on stage and he was a big hit. They were looking for someone else. Someone more recognizable than Lugosi. However, eventually the studio relented to Lugosi’s constant campaigning and gave him the part. (The fact that Bela agreed to play the role at a much lower rate than Chaney would have been paid also helped.) And as I said, Lugosi was perfect. He set the template and every vampire in film ever since has been compared to his Dracula. In the Spanish version, Carlos Villairas’s Dracula just doesn’t come close.

I’ve heard the reason Dracula was so stagey and not as dynamic as later horror films may have been that the director wasn’t really interested in the production. It was said that Tod Browning had checked out. That seems possible to me. I mean, when it came to filming the climax, I can imagine the actor David Manners asking the director what he was to do in the scene. Browning may have responded, “Oh, I don’t know. Run around and call out Mina a bunch of times.”

And he did. He ran around calling out his fiance’s name. Over and over. Over and over. So many times. How many times?

20. I counted.

The film may be 90 years old and more like the stage play it was based on, it’s still a classic. And I love it.

Happy Halloween!

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

The Lurker From Beyond Makes A Great Cover

It’s the month of Halloween again and I’m going back to the Werewolf By Night series from Marvel Comics to look at another great comic book cover. (The first great cover I looked at back in 2016 was issue #26 of this same series. Click here to read that one.) This month’s example is the cover of the eighth issue, dated August, 1973.

The illustrator is the great Mike Ploog, who was the main artist for the first few issues of the Werewolf series. The interior art for this issue was done by Werner Roth, a capable artist who does a good job with the story, but I would loved to have seen how Ploog would have illustrated it. Judging by the cover, Krogg would have been even more menacing.

The cover is reminiscent of the old monster comics by Stan Lee and the great Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Those comics also featured some menace with a playful name such as Groot, Sporr, Rommbu, and Fin Fang Foom. The names would often be followed by a subtitle like “the thing that could not die” or “his very name made men tremble” or “the creature from nowhere”. So dramatic.

Well, in this issue we meet Krogg! The Lurker from Beyond! Chilling!

Werner Roth’s version of Krogg. Good, but it doesn’t have quite the same menace as Ploog’s.

Ploog’s art, which he penciled and inked it, just leaps right off the page at the reader. The werewolf has a real sense of movement. I just love how Ploog drew the werewolf. The flaming breath of the lurker from beyond makes a nice splash that throws the flames and words right at us. Those words, done by either Morrie Kuramoto or Danny Crespi (comics.org credits both), look great and have that 1950s sci-fi movie feel.

There is a bit of misleading going on on the cover. Tethered to the tree, just behind Krogg, we see a “damsel in distress”. There are a couple things about this inclusion. One is the reader looking at the cover might think Krogg is defending the woman from the werewolf. I mean, he is a werewolf. But he is the hero. And Krogg is the rather arrogant and very talkative villain. (Talk about monologuing! Yeesh!)

The second thing is that the reader might be confused when reading the book. There is no damsel in distress. Just a battle between our hero and Krogg. Krogg is a demon of some sort that cannot be see by humans unless he possesses an animal or human. Since the werewolf was already possessed by the spirit of a wolf, he had to use a bunny rabbit to create a body that could be seen. While not all wolfed out, Jack Russell had accidentally loosed Krogg from the underground prison he had been kept in for generations. Way to go, Jack.

Not to worry, the werewolf re-imprisons the demonic villain.

Or does he?

It’s a great cover!

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Can You Draw Lil’ Normie: A Tribute To Norman Truman

“Do you like to draw, or paint, or maybe just sketch and doodle?”

That is how the president of the Art Instruction Schools, Tom Stuart, greeted viewers in a 1990s television ad intended to attract budding artists to sign up for at-home art courses. Courses meant to forge the dabblings of their hobbies into finely honed marketable skills for the world of commercial art. Its most famous alum is Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.

The mail correspondence art school was founded in 1914 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it operated until it closed its doors in 2018. It was famous for its many, many print ads challenging doodlers to duplicate simple pencil drawings to be sent in for evaluation. There were cute animals including Cuddles the Puppy, Tiny the Mouse, Cubby the Bear, and Tippy the Turtle. They also had human characters to draw, such as The Pirate, The Cowboy, The Musketeer, The Leprechaun, and an assortment of lovely ladies. All were in profile. All were simple enough drawings, but were you up to the challenge? Could you have what it takes for a career in commercial art?

When I was in the sixth grade, I gave it my best attempt to reproduce Spunky the Donkey. The results were pretty good for a 12 year old. (Although, my memory of the drawing was it was done in 1974. However, my mother’s handwriting on the drawing says in was 1976. I’m not gonna argue with Mom’s handwriting.) I didn’t submit the drawing to the school.

My grade school attempt.

Like most kids, I liked to draw. And sometime in the third grade, I began to notice I could draw better than most the rest of the kids I knew. Oh, why be humble? In grade school, few of my classmates could draw as well as I could. None could draw better. It would be the same in high school.

Being better at drawing than my peers was something that spurred me to draw more and more. Drawing more and more got me better at it and that kept me drawing and that kept me getting better. Sort of a snowball effect. I ended up going to art school after I graduated high school, where I was humbled by other students who could also draw really well. A few were better than me.

In the fall of 1996, I started working as a production artist at Cold Side Silkscreening in Minneapolis. (It’s still there. In fact, my wife is working there now as their staff artist.) That’s when I met Norman Truman.

Cold Side was filled with interesting characters, but Norman was in a category all his own. He was a punk rocker. Yes, there were other punks there, but Norman stood out. He was covered from (literally) the top of his head on down to his feet in tattoos. He also had piercing in loads of places. So, I’m told. I didn’t know him that well.

Norman in the shirt that never was, but should have been.

He had the appearance of someone scary. Someone to avoid. He might be violent. In fact, he was quite the opposite.

Sometime in the late ’90s, a group of us from Cold Side, Norman included, obtained tickets to see the reunited Godfathers of Goth – Bauhaus. While waiting for the band to take the stage, I spotted a couple of my art school classmates. I went of over to say hello. I was greeted by an enthusiastic “Dim!” (I got the nickname Dim at art school.) I sat with them to visit for a few minutes.

As we waxed on nostalgically about the art school days and what we were doing now, one friend was distracted and pointed out to the other, “Look! That dude has tattoos on his face!” I looked over and saw it was Norman. I said, “Oh, yeah. That’s Norman. I’m here with him. I work with him. He’s a really nice guy.”

And he was a really nice guy.

As, I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, Norman is no longer with us. He died in early August, after a sudden and brief illness at the age of 54. I know he had asthma. It was a serious condition for him and it may have been a contributing factor. But, I don’t know the actual cause of death.

Flyer art for Bob Murderer’s Memorial

In June of this year, Norman had reached out to me to do some artwork for a flyer promoting a two night punk rock concert event to honor another former Cold Sider who had recently died. It was for Bob Murderer (not his real name, duh), who had died after battling cancer for sometime. Bob’s death was a sad occasion, but Norman’s was a shock. Bob’s friends knew he was sick and they had time to come to grips with that. We didn’t have that with Norman.

I finished the art for Bob’s flyer and sent it to Norman. He was thrilled with it and planned to give the original to Bob’s longtime girlfriend. I gave him some advice on framing the art and how to preserve it. He thanked me for the heads up.

That was the last private text chat Norman and I would ever have. A couple week’s later yet another former Cold Sider texted me to tell me that Norman was in a coma. A week later our friend Norman succumbed to his illness.

A sketch by me done in May, 2020.

The outpouring of love for Norman on social media was incredible. From the moment the news went out that he was very ill, people who knew him sent their sincere wishes for his recovery. They sent messages of love and support to his wife, his family, and to each other. When the heartbreaking news came pictures, drawings, and endless stories of Norman’s kindness, his openness, his dedication to his friends, his family, his wife, and to punk rock filled my Facebook page. It was incredible! There are still memories being shared.

I shared whatever photos my wife and I had. I shared some memories. And I shared the drawing you see at the top of this blog. It was inspired by the Art Instruction Schools’ “Draw Me” challenges. While I was working in Cold Side’s art department in those early days, a co-worker suggested I come up with one based on Norman. That’s what I came up with. It would have made a great shirt. Why wasn’t it made?

Dear reader, you may not have known him, but in the Twin Cities’ DIY Punk scene Norman Truman was a legend. And if you had known him, you would have loved him. Everyone did.

Punk Forever, Forever Punk.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Schoolhouse Rock Rocked (Mostly)

ABC Television

Back in the early days of my childhood, it could not be overemphasized how important Saturday morning television programming was to us kids. Each year, sometime in late summer, the networks would run their prime-time specials previewing their Saturday morning line-ups for that fall. Those programs built excitement for the upcoming season and they softened the blow of the impending school year. Here’s NBC’s 1974 preview show.

Much of the programming seems awfully silly to me now, but when I was a kid I was enthralled. I know I’m gonna sound like an old man here, but kids today are missing out on the excitement of anticipation for the Saturday morning cartoon shows. See? I sound like an old man.

In 1973, ABC debuted a series of interstitial cartoons meant to educate as well as entertain. It was Schoolhouse Rock! And we kids loved them. (Well, most of them.) They were three minute long cartoons, played during ad breaks or between shows, featuring songs that taught about math, history, grammar, science, etc. They were the brainchild of ad man David McCall. McCall noticed his son was having trouble with math, and yet knew all the words to the pop songs of the day. McCall thought that maybe school lessons set to catchy tunes might help his and other kids learn.

In 1971, McCall recruited Bob Dorough, a musician and songwriter, to write a math lesson song, which became Three Is A Magic Number. Tom Yohe, who worked with McCall at the same ad agency, drew up some illustrations to go along with the song. Next thing you know, they were creating a whole series of songs to animate and put on television.

Some of the episodes haven’t aged very well (Elbow Room especially, despite still having a good tune), but most still pack a delightful punch.

And now a break from the blog for a brief rant…

There he is! Little Twelvetoes!

Schoolhouse Rock! also taught me the concept of overkill. As I recall, certain episodes became very popular indeed and started getting played with much higher frequency. One in particular.

Each time I would see the Schoolhouse Rock! intro, I would plead for one of the less frequently played, but much liked by me, installments:

“Little Twelvetoes! Little Twelvetoes! Little Twelvetoes!” I would repeat as I waited to see which would play.

(I liked Little Twelvetoes. It had a mysterious and somewhat creepy vibe. Sort of an early X-Files thing.)

But, no. It would be Conjunction Junction. Again!

Again?! Sigh.

Or, maybe, Figure Eight.

Both were excellent, but they were seriously overplayed.

Rant over. Now back to the blog.

So, what were my favorites? I thought you would never ask.

As I look through the list on Wikipedia, I’m noticing how many I really like that were written, many of which were also performed, by Lynn Ahrens. In no particular order, some of my faves by Ahrens include: A Noun Is A Person Place Or Thing, Interjections!, No More Kings, Interplanet Janet, Fireworks (sung by Grady Tate), and The Preamble.

There’s one that was written by George Newall and sung by Blossom Dearie that I would put in my top three: Unpack Your Adjectives.

I love the art style of I Got Six.

But, it was Bob Dorough who has the most episodes to his credit and the most of my favorites. I’ve already mentioned the first of all the Schoolhouse Rock! cartoons, Three Is A Magic Number and that mysterious alien Little Twelvetoes. Add to those the following (unless otherwise noted all of these were sung by Dorough): My Hero Zero, I Got Six (sung by Grady Tate), Figure Eight (sung by Blossom Dearie), Ready Or Not Here I Come, Sufferin’ Till Suffrage (sung by Essra Mohawk), and the bestest of them all – Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here.

Tom Yohe’s simple illustration style was excellent. I especially like his work on I Got Six. The sketchy yet disciplined linework over a white background and limited use of color is brilliant. There may be some eyebrow raising moments in there, what with the harem and the “prince” character and all, but it was 1973 and people were still learning. Heck, we’re still learning today.

How’s that spelled?

The initial run of Schoolhouse Rock! was from 1973 until 1984. The series returned to Saturday mornings in 1994 with a selection of the originals and eight new episodes, including one called Walkin’ On Wall Street. That one has an amusing typo that slipped by everyone. There’s a shot featuring a newsstand. Look at the picture. Can you spot the error?

In 1993, the series was taken to the stage with the production called Schoolhouse Rock Live! Then in 1996, a tribute album featuring ’90s’ alternative artists’ covers titled Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks. And in 2009, Schoolhouse Rock! released several new episodes direct to DVD covering topics related to the environment called Schoolhouse Rock! Earth.

But my heart belongs to the Schoolhouse Rock! that ruled the 1970s.

“Darn! That’s the end.”

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

It’s A Trope, But Not A Bad One

Thor #169 – October, 1969

For this month’s great comic book cover I’m going with one that is a bit of a trope.

I don’t know if there is a technical term, one used in the business, but I’m calling it the “cutout character”. What I mean by that is the artist decided to not draw a particular character while still including them on the cover. The artist merely draws an outline with the white of the page filling the space.

We have seen many covers through the years that have used this design device. There is a black version of this cover trope, in which the artist chooses to fill the outline of the character with flat black, creating a kind of shadow effect. Let’s call that the “black hole character”. (Maybe I’ll look for one of those for a future great cover.)

This month’s entry has another bit of a trope. It uses interior scenes, either from the same or previous issues, as a background collage. There is a variant of this trope which shows the cover has a “hole” torn out of it revealing the art of the first page inside.

The cutout drawing of Galactus with Thor flying out of the white space was done by Marvel Comics workhorse John Romita. Romita wasn’t as flashy as Jack Kirby or John Buscema or Steve Ditko, but I would say he was almost as instrumental as those great artists in establishing how comic book art should look. And he did a lot of work for Marvel. He not only drew many, many covers and stories, he would also make corrections or changes on many, many covers drawn by other artists. He would change a character pose, maybe add a character, or he might just change the face or a hand. Whatever was believed necessary to make the cover look its best.

That simple cutout drawing of Galactus is so impressive. With Romita showing the threatening power of the godlike villain with a simple outline surrounding the white space along with the Jack Kirby background collage, it all adds up to one great cover. So what if it is a trope? Or two?

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Flame On A Great Cover

Sorry for not writing in a while. I just ended up taking most of December and all of January off. I have no excuse. No explanation, other than just needing a break.

But let’s get back to it with a great cover. This one caught my eye when I was filing away new arrivals at Nostalgia Zone.

It is Fantastic Four #353 (June 1991) which was drawn and inked by Walt Simonson, whose simple linear style is instantly recognizable. His use of line is very disciplined, especially when compared to the big flashy artists of the 90s comics boom. Some of those other artists were all about the lines and lots of them.

When I look at Simonson’s work it’s hard for me to link him to any influences he might have had. There’s some Jack Kirby in there, but what comic book artist doesn’t have some of the King in their style? Maybe a hint of Joe Kubert and more than a little Joe Staton, but Simonson, to my eyes, is his own artist.

This particular cover shows how well Walt used his lines. The Human Torch is drawn in the classic flame-on look, which is all about the lines and Simonson uses them so effectively in defining the form of our hot-headed hero. Even the motion burst straight lines of the background work.

I love the sharp angle turns of the Torch’s trailing flames. The sharp angles give the impression he is moving at a much greater velocity than the typical rounded paths drawn by other artists. It is a subtle effect that really works.

And there is the expertly handled force perspective. The Torch pops right off the page. He is flying directly at us! It all looks right, too. From the exaggerated hand to that tiny foot. It’s not always to easiest thing to do to draw in forced perspective. There are other fine artists who can struggle to make it look right. Walt makes it look right.

Let’s not forget Simonson’s famous signature, which might be the best in comic books.

That’s a great signature and this is a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

Another Wonder Woman Great Cover

She’s not tied up this time, but there she is being dominated by men. Again.

Well, this issue of Wonder Woman (#176) was published in June 1968 and the male dominated world of comic books was trying to get a handle on the Women’s Movement. However, I’m certain Wonder Woman was able to defeat the Triple Stars, the rather disturbing looking fellows surrounding her as she has a moment of doubt. (Spoiler: I took a peak inside. She kicks their butts.)

Artist Irv Novick, who drew and inked this great cover, uses the through the legs composition, which is not all that uncommon in comic book cover design. Why the first cover I wrote about on this blog (Werewolf By Night, #26, February 1975) used that composition very effectively. It was drawn by Gil Kane after all, so of course it is great.

So the composition works well and I like the way Wonder Woman is drawn. Novick’s anatomy drawing is great and I love that heavy black outline of her left arm. That heavy line seems to root her right to the ground.

But what really strikes me when I look at the cover are the faces of those two Triple Stars. The big smiles appear frozen in place. But, those eyes. Look at those eyes. It’s those eyes that makes those fellows so disturbing. They look like demented versions of Superman. I don’t want to know what is on their minds. And all the menace is achieved with those frozen smiles and those evil, evil eyes.

It’s a great cover that gives me the creeps.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share..

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.