Kirby Is The King For A Reason

I can’t believe that when I was a kid I didn’t like Jack Kirby’s work. I just didn’t like the squared-off fingers, the poorly defined knuckles, the overly simplified anatomy. It all bothered me as a kid. And, from what I have heard elsewhere, other professional comic book illustrators that followed Kirby also didn’t like his work when they were kids. (Except for Walt Simonson. He liked Kirby from a very young age.) It took my going to art school for me to begin to appreciate the greatness of the King.

And I love it now! Especially the work he produced from the mid-60s on through the late 70s. His drawing in the first several issues of the Fantastic Four was crude, but by 1965 he began to really cook. His artwork just popped right off the page. Everything became pure WOW! His characters became more dynamic. His cityscapes and sci-fi machinery became more intricate. His action became grander. And his depictions of energy, outer space, and the Negative Zone began to krackle.

Captain America #106 (October 1968)

As the title says, he was the king for a reason.

Which brings me to this month’s great cover, Marvel Comics’ Daredevil #43 (August 1968) drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott. This cover could be a companion piece to another great Kirby cover I profiled way back in November, 2017. (Ahhh, the before times. Remember them?). Both feature Marvel’s star-spangled Avenger. Both make terrific use of the entire page. Both were produced at roughly the same time.

This cover also places Captain America front and center. As on Captain America #106 (that other great Kirby cover), Kirby deftly manages to turn Cap’s upper body toward the “camera”, so we get a clear view of America’s super-soldier. His fist pops off the page. Why, I almost feel I have to duck out of the way to avoid getting clobbered.

The characters feel a little more stationary on this cover, but it still demonstrates Jack Kirby’s awesomeness. It’s a great cover.

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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.

Another Sub-Mariner Great Cover

Sub-Mariner #29 (September, 1970)

This is the fourth great cover I’ve featured from Marvel ComicsSub-Mariner series. That’s a little weird, but I saw this cover and thought I’d give a little more love (I’ve given some to this artist before) to Sal Buscema.

Sal’s brother John gets most of the attention and it would be difficult to argue against that. John is one of the giants of comic book art. He’s up there with Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, and the king Jack Kirby. Those were more or less contemporaries of John’s, but his work stacks up nicely with the following generation of artists including George Perez, Walt Simonson, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and John Byrne.

Ugh! There I go! Here I’m trying to cast a light of Sal Buscema’s work and I get into praising John. Sorry, Sal.

Sal’s work may not have had the same gracefulness as John’s (see that first Silver Surfer series and his first run on The Avengers, especially #57 which introduced the Vision), but it did have similar power. Sal had a strong sense of the melodramatic, which is what comic books are all about.

I have friends who have knocked Sal as being a little generic, but I think he definitely had a style. A look of his own. A style, incidentally, he completely changed in his later career when drawing The Spectacular Spider-Man. It shocked me to see he was the artist drawing those books. That drastic style change was something John never did. John’s work remained very good throughout his career with Marvel, but it felt a little stale in his later years.

This cover is from when Sal was drawing Prince Namor (yep, John was the first artist on the series). He was drawing both the covers and the stories within at the time. I’m not sure who inked the cover. The Grand Comics Database (where I get most my comic book information) isn’t sure if it was Frank Giacoia or Joe Giella.

What makes this cover great in my eyes is mostly due to the pose of Hercules and Namor in battle. Hercules seems like he should have the upper hand, but that pesky Huntsman in the background is zapping him with a magic wand or taser or something that shoots electricity. There’s a strong sense of motion in the pose. And I like the way the two figures dominate the page.

I also like how Hercules’ right leg is rendered. It’s solidly supporting the weight of our heroes (they are both heroes) doing battle with each other.. And I always dug how Sal drew fists. I love that exaggerated, right angle of the thumb rising from the wrist. And Sal Buscema was great at drawing maniacally crazy facial expressions. The Huntsman’s face is small in the drawing, but Sal and the inker are able to show some craziness with a raised eyebrow and a smile.

The cover also pops! I mean the action leaps off the page. It catches the eye. This pop is due to the pose of the characters and the yellow zap surrounded by that flat black background. This cover would make me stop and look more closely at it if I had seen it on the newsstand in 1970.

It’s a fun cover, which I think is 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. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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.

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?

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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!

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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?

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

A Timely Great Cover

Published in July of this year by Harper Collins is this month’s great cover.

It is issue number one of the limited series Action Presidents, the humorously told true stories of four of America’s greatest presidents. The series includes Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and our first president, and the subject of this month’s cover, George Washington.

Of course, all our presidents were human, so they were flawed men, but each featured in this series had a certain greatness which helped form and propel this country. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all of America’s presidents.

Washington set the template and the high standard of the office. He stepped down twice from positions of power. First, when he resigned his command of an army which had just won a revolution. And, then a second time, after serving two four year terms as this nation’s first chief executive, setting the two term limit that lasted until Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, first elected in 1932 and reelected three more times. Washington’s willingness to stand down from such power might be the most remarkable aspect of his character.

Let’s look at the cover.

Created by artist Ryan Dunlavey, I suspect it was digitally produced. Yes, I prefer the old school of hand drawn and inked comic art, but digital has its place. And in something as cartoony as this cover digital works really well. The cartooniness of the art helps sell the telling of the stories in a humorous way.

The simplicity of the art is fun and effective. I love the bold line of that popping from the page fist. And the sternness of Pres. Washington’s expression brings to mind Sam Eagle, one of my favorite characters from The Muppet Show.

I think it’s 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. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.

A Fin Fang Foom-tastic Cover

It’s October and it’s time for a cover fitting to the holiday that caps this the best month of the year. (I sure hope there will be a Halloween this year. Wash your hands, social distance, and wear a mask!) I feel in the mood for a classic comic book monster. So, let’s look at another great cover by the King – Jack Kirby.

I think it is fairly common among comic book collectors and artists to have come to appreciate Kirby’s artistry later in their lives. As kids, they weren’t big fans of the King. I’m among those folks. I thought Jack’s drawings were clunky. I grew out of that and learned to really appreciate and love his work.

But, even in my misguided youth, I did like the way Jack Kirby drew monsters. I always thought they were cool. I loved the way they looked. The scales, gills, fin, craggy skin, and those squared off claws. I loved all of that. Jack Kirby, as far as I was concerned, was one of the best monster drawers.

And Fin Fang Foom was such a great looking monster.

This cover of Strange Tales #89 (October 1961) was drawn by Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers, and colored by Stan Goldberg. It demonstrates Jack’s masterful command of action and his great monster drawing. And notice the destroyed buildings in the background. That little detail shows that FFF has already done considerable damage and show he is the “most fearful menace of them all!”

I just love these silver age Marvel Comics covers. So much more action than the DC Comics’ covers of that time period. All due respect to Curt Swan, of course, but I just think Jack Kirby was better.

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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 Apple Podcasts.