This is the first installment of a series in which I will examine some of my favorite comic book covers and explain why they are awesome works of pop art. Obviously, covers were vitally important to grab the attention (and money) of the potential reader. An eye-catching cover could get a casual reader to pick it up or get an avid collector to maybe buy a new title. A lackluster series could have a dynamite cover, giving it a chance to be purchased. A bit of the bait and switch, but what can ya do?
In the 1970s, the go-to artist for dynamic, eye-popping covers was the fantastic Gil Kane. Kane started working in the comic book industry in the early 1940s at the tender age of 16 and made himself into one of the all time greatest artists in the history of comic books. If you bought a Marvel comic book in the ’70s, chances are very good the cover art was by Gil Kane.
I was told by a Marvel editor once that comic book art is all about melodrama. Kane was the master of melodrama. His command of dynamic human anatomy was unparalleled. And, from what I’ve been told, he drew very quickly, which was a must in those days if an artist was to make a living.
So, let’s look at the cover of Werewolf By Night #26 (February 1975). The book features one of the werewolf’s arch foes, Hangman. The cover shows our hero cornered by Hangman and the tension is absolutely palpable, as we can see the werewolf is prepared to pounce. As you know, a cornered animal is a very dangerous animal.
However, we can see by Hangman’s pose, standing erect with his shoulders back and arms by his sides, that he is confident in his ability to meet and defeat the werewolf’s pending attack. His pose also gives us a good look at his weapons: The hangman’s noose and a scythe. Although, why a hangman would need a scythe, I have no idea. Looks cool, though.
The choice of seeing the werewolf from between the villain’s legs uses the classic triangular composition. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the werewolf’s face and his ever-present snarl. On virtually every cover of this series, the werewolf is depicted with his mouth open, bearing his teeth. Well, he is a werewolf.
Note that the werewolf’s eyes are clearly directed to his opponent’s face. Kane was a bit more careful on this cover than he was when he drew the cover of Conan The Barbarian #43. He used essentially same composition as on Werewolf By Night #26, however instead of looking into the face of the threatening creature, Conan appears to be looking a bit… lower. (Of course, Kane could always blame the inker.)
“Yes, yes. It’s very impressive, but my eyes are up here, pal!”
Keep an out eye for more awesome covers. I’ll let you know right now, we will see Gil Kane again.
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