Category Archives: Comic Book Art

This Month’s Great Cover Has A Lantern Jaw

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Just look at that!

In the January, 1993 issue of Superman (#75), our hero from the planet Kryton had died defeating what seemed to be an unstoppable foe: Doomsday. In the months that followed, as Superman lay “dead,” four characters stepped in to fill his sizable shoes. They were Eradicator, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Steel. Eventually, the real Superman rose from the dead (hardly anyone stays dead in comic books for very long) to take up the task of once again fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

This month’s great cover is from Superman: The Man Of Steel #25 (September, 1993). It was drawn by Jon Bogdanove and inked by Dennis Janke. Bogdanove had started working for Marvel Comics in 1986, then he hopped on over to DC Comics in 1991 and became part of the team that created the Man Of Steel title in the wake of Superman’s death.

1993 was part of th23188at awful time period when comic book art began to drown in unnecessary linework. Lines! Lines! Lines! Marvel and Image Comics led the way in this era in which some artists forgot to leave room for color, adding more and more lines, while some inkers also abandoned the use of varying line weight to show the shape of things. Look at the cover of The Incredible Hulk #341 (March, 1988), drawn and inked by Todd MacFarlane, one of the artists who issued in this flood of undisciplined linework. Now, imagine there’s no color, it’s a black and white line drawing. Without the color it would be difficult to tell just what the hell is going on. So many unnecessary lines, which all have more or less the same weight to them.

Compare MacFarlane’s cover to this month’s great cover. Bogdanove and Janke use plenty of lines for shading, but the lines are disciplined. They are loose in their execution, but they are placed right where they are needed. There are thick and thin lines. They make sense. You can tell exactly what is going on. And they leave room for color, which was masterfully provided by Janke.

I love a good close-up and Bogdanove and Janke nailed this one. This, my friends, is how you draw an angry, determined, about-to-kick-your-butt Superman!

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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.

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Hang on! Vince Colletta Inked This?

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Comic books? Check. Hair helmet? Check. Safety glasses? Check. Girlfriend?

By my sophomore year of high school (1980/81), I was a few years into seriously collecting comic books. I had even been drawing my own with a friend since the fourth grade. And in that year’s yearbook there was a brief profile on me and my comic book fandom. It included a photograph of me with a few selected items from my collection.

When the yearbooks were handed out and we were all feverishly defacing them by getting our friends and favorite teachers to sign them, a fellow sophomore approached me. He asked how many comic books I had in my collection. When I told him he complained that I shouldn’t have been profiled. He said, “My collection is a lot bigger than yours!”

My sister is on the yearbook committee,” was my somewhat snarky response. You see, it was my sister who wrote the blurb. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

High school drama aside, do you that page just below and to the right of the Son Of Origins Of Marvel Comics tome? That is the one piece of original comic book art that I own. I bought it for a mere 12 dollars, which was right in my budget.

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Here’s a better look at the page.

The page is from the original Sub-Mariner series by Marvel Comics. It’s the second page of issue #72, the last of that series. The artist is Dan Green and the inker is Vince Colletta.

However, when I shared this image on a comic book fan group page on Facebook, there were plenty of people who questioned if Colletta really did ink this page. Well, the credits in the book say it was him, as does the comic book database site comics.org. So, I went with those sources.

However, I can see why it’s questioned, because Vince Colletta had a very recognizable inking style. His inks have a feathered feel to them. His shading lines tend to be thinner than what we see on the page from Sub-Mariner #72. In fact, the first few pages of that issue don’t look as though Colletta had inked them, but by page 10, his work is unmistakable.

Here’s a good example of his inks. This panel was drawn by George Tuska.

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Note the shading and shaping lines on Angel’s arm, chest, and hair. Those are all signs of Colletta’s inking.

Here are a couple of the first few pages of Sub-Mariner #72. It’s difficult to see any of the Colletta style:

Sub-Mariner Page 1

Page 1

Sub-Mariner Page 7

Page 7

Compare the original art page and these other two pages to that panel with the prone Angel. There doesn’t seem to be any of the Colletta feel. Perhaps a little in the creature’s left arm in the first panel of page 7.

Now compare those to these next two pages, also from Sub-Mariner #72.

Sub-Mariner Page 10

Page 10

Sub-Mariner Page 11

Page 11

I think it is very clear that Vince Colletta inked these two pages. His style is all over them. So, it may be possible he did not ink those first few pages. Maybe Dan Green inked them, he is primarily known as an inker. However, unless someone with direct knowledge as to the creators responsible for the artwork, I’ll go with the credits given in the comic book itself.

Can anyone provide that insight?

Oh, in case you’re curious as to how the original page I own looks when colored and printed, here it is:

Sub-Mariner Page 2

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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.

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A Great Comic Cover From The Days Before Zombies Were Played Out. (They Are Played Out, Right?)

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The best month of the year has once again arrived. Seriously, it’s awesome. The weather, at least where I live, is so much more pleasant than any other time of the year. Baseball’s postseason kicks off and, boy, I hope the Hated Yankees lose. (You should, too!) My wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. And the best month is capped off by the best holiday – Halloween!

Come on! How could any month be better?

Since the capper is Halloween, it’s my tradition to declare a comic book cover that depicts the macabre as great. So, this October I declare the cover of Batman #453 (Late August 1990) to be great. It was drawn by one of my favorite artists Mike Mignola, with inks by George Pratt.

Mignola is one of those artists who when he first started in the field attempted to conform to a more traditional superhero drawing style. Fortunately, he began to draw the way he wanted to and his work got so much more interesting. At least, to me.

This cover of Batman came out during the later stage of his change over in his style. And it’s great. Batman is best when he’s depicted on the macabre side (Kelley Jones also excelled at the macabre Batman) and Mignola’s deceptively simple line work is on par with David Mazzucchelli’s work on the Batman: Year One storyline from 1987. (A terrific story arc!)

Just look at it! Stark contrast, muted colors, a graveyard with a demon-headed tombstone, the Dark Knight, and the undead! It’s great, I tell ya! Great!

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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.

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Little Dot Returns On Another Great Cover

This cover of Little Dot may be less troublesome to folks who suffer from trypophobia (fear of holes) than the one I featured last September. But they still might want to take care.

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Almost makes you feel like dancing, eh?

Colors! This month’s great cover (Little Dot #119, October, 1968) is almost all about colors. I say almost because there is the overall composition and that great, well disciplined, and simple line work. As was the case with that other Little Dot cover, I don’t know the identity of artist. Last September, a couple readers made the educated guess that that cover was by Warren Kremer. This may be his, too. He did a lot of covers for Harvey Comics in those days.

It’s a playful cover showing Little Dot dancing to her favorite song. Hmm. 1968? I’m going to guess it’s Yummy Yummy Yummy by Ohio Express. Or it could be Richard Harris’s classic MacArthur Park. Perhaps it’s (in a thematic throwback to last week’s blog) Simon & Garfunkel’s hit Mrs. Robinson. Not matter. It appears to be a swingin’ tune.

And, yes, the colors. This cover pops right out of that black background. All those bubbles of multicolored notes swirling through the air make this one jump off the page. The white outline around our hero helps to define her form and keeps her from getting lost in the bubbles.

This is one of the funnest covers I’ve ever written about it this series.

It really is a great cover.

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Atlas/Seaboard Produced At Least One Great Cover

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Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics, left his company in 1972 (he had sold it in 1968). He went on to form a new comic book and magazine publishing company called Atlas Comics in 1974. It’s referred to today as Atlas/Seaboard so as not to confuse it with Goodman’s other publishing company called Atlas that later became Marvel in 1961. He wanted to compete with the big two: DC Comics and, of course, his former company. He hired Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber as an editor and offered good money, along with rights to character creations and ownership of their artwork, to freelance artists to get them to come aboard.

He did get some of the big names in the field at the time. Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, John Severin, Russ Heath, and others all lent their considerable talents to the venture.

I can remember being excited about a new comic book company. I even bought a few of their comics. But, the mid 1970s was a rough time for comic books, even for the big two. Atlas just couldn’t compete and it folded in late 1975. None of their titles went more than four issues.

At least one great cover was produced in the upstart’s brief existence. This great cover isn’t by Adams or Ditko or any of the big name artists of the day. It’s also not by the then up and coming Howard Chaykin. No, this cover of the first issue of Targitt (March, 1975) was drawn and inked by Dick Giordano.

Giordano was more known for inking comics over at DC than for being an artist. But, as an artist, he was pretty good. You can see an influence from Neal Adams on this cover, most notably the arm of the bad guy wielding a knife. This makes sense, because Giordano inked a lot of Adams’ pencils for DC.

The Dutch angle might be a little on the severe side. I mean, they are obviously on a ship. Are the seas that rough? If so, why is the deck so dry? Oh. The bad guy’s “going down with the ship” comment isn’t just a pun? Well, the severity adds to the tension and impending action of the scene. Besides, I like Dutch angles.

I do think it was a mistake to have the guy with the speargun getting off a shot. He’s so close to a fellow standing stock still and yet he misses? Did he attend the Imperial Stormtrooper Academy™? Perhaps it’s just a warning shot.

I also like the idea of the character of Targitt. He’s an FBI agent bent on revenge against the Mob who was responsible for the death of his wife and child. There’s a whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish/Punisher vibe to the guy. But, Atlas decided over the next two issues to turn him into a costumed superhero. That was a mistake.

Atlas may have been short-lived, but they gave us this great cover.

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A Great American Comic Book Cover

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It’s a great Captain America cover despite it showing the patriotic hero having been defeated. He may be down for the moment, but we know he’ll triumph in the end. He always does. Or did in those days, anyway.

This is the first great cover installment featuring Marie Severin as the artist. There weren’t many women working as comic book artists back then. Marie was a pioneer. And she was great. She drew, she inked, and she would color the pages of some of Marvel’s greatest characters. For this May, 1970 issue of Captain America (#125) she provided the pencils and color, while it was Frank Giacoia who inked it.

There is a hint of Gene Colan’s style in this cover and that may be intentional, because Gene is the artist for the pages within. Marie may have been trying to mimic his style. However, I’ve always been more of a fan of Marie’s drawing style than Gene’s. His work was good. Very cinematic. But there was something about how he drew people. Hard to explain.

Marie’s high achievements on this cover are two fold. First, as the penciler, she has drawn such a natural-looking pose of defeat. Cap is unconscious and limp, yet we can still he is a powerful man. She quite literally used the “S”-curve design for her drawing of our defeated hero. The face of the unconscious First Avenger is very nicely done, as well.

Second is her use of color.

(Allow me to sidetrack a bit here. There really is something about the way the comics from my day were colored that make them so much more appealing to me. It’s probably because that’s the way it was done when I first learned to appreciate comic books and so it’s more familiar to me. I like the old way of laying out pages, too. The way comic books look now is fine and a lot of the stuff is great, but I guess I just prefer the old ways.)

Marie’s use of color and heavy black on this cover are terrific at suggesting defeat and dread. Cap has been captured and is being held captive in a cold and dank castle. The blue of his uniform even seems darker with that hint of purple. The use of grey to shade his face instead of flat black is also a nice touch.

Captain America, as drawn by Marie Severin, still looks great even in defeat.

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This Month’s Great Cover Ended An Era And Started Another

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In the mid-1950s, the US Government seemed to believe that comic books were turning America’s youth into juvenile delinquents. Rep. Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn) led the charge in Congress to stop the evil influence of comic books on America’s future. Funny. I thought the 1950s was when America was great. Huh.

Well, anyway.

There was one company in particular that really drew the attention of America’s decency standards keepers: EC Comics. In those days, EC was the comic book publisher that was most consistent in publishing quality comic books. The stories were intriguing and challenging and the artwork was some of the best in the industry, as this month’s cover by Johnny Craig demonstrates.

The cover is from issue number 22 of Crime Suspenstories (May, 1954) and it became the centerpiece of the US House Committee hearings on comic books, led by the worried Rep. Kefauver. The Congressman grilled then owner of EC, William “Bill” Gaines, on whether or not he considered a cover depicting a murdered woman with a man holding her severed head to be in good taste. Gaines thought it was for a horror comic book not necessarily meant for kids.

Gaines pointed out that the cover didn’t show the viscera of the severed neck nor of the body laying on the floor. However, I’ve read somewhere that Craig had originally drawn the cover depicting where the neck had been cut. It was redrawn to tone it down.

Well, the hearings led to the industry forming the Comics Code Authority in 1954. This body was to set down rules as to what could and could not be depicted in comic books. The Comics Code Authority remained active until the early 2000s, but their power had been eroding for years before then.

Soon after the Comics Code came into being, Bill Gaines shut down all of his comic book titles. Ending an era. He turned his attention to a magazine that had started as a comic book. Magazines weren’t subject to the Code, so he could do what he liked with them. And he liked satire. The magazine was Mad. And so began another era.

Phew, so much for the history. Now let’s look at that controversial cover…

First there is the general layout of an EC cover. There’s the banner title with a solid color for the background. The art is framed in a square taking up about two thirds of the cover. Marvel Comics would adopt this layout for a time in the 1970s.

The artwork itself is very well drawn by Craig. Craig’s execution is terrific. Without having it detailed for us, the positioning of the body on the floor, the look on the victim’s face, and the blood-spattered (done in black) axe tells the viewer that a man has just loped off a woman’s head. The under lighting on the severed head and the murderer’s arm add to the drama.

But, Craig has also done two things that are quite subtle. First is the positioning of the axe. I may be reading something into this that isn’t there, having a dirty mind as I do, but there’s a certain phallicness to it, don’t you think? Of course it might just be, that given the design and layout constraints, that was the best way for Johnny Craig to show the man had a blood-soaked axe.

The second subtle touch is the murderer’s posture. The man is not drawn hunched forward in a position that would indicate shame. No, this man is standing upright. His shoulders held back, his chest pumped out. This pose looks to me as though he’s happy – proud! – of what he’s done.

These subtle touches along with the fabulous execution make this a great cover. It may have ended EC Comics, but it gave us Mad Magazine. Not a terrible trade-off.

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