Before John Byrne teamed up with Terry Austin on The All-New, All-Different X-Men #108 in 1977, taking the comic book world by storm, he had been working for Marvel Comics since 1975. He had also been pulling double duty in those early days working for Marvel and Charlton Comics. And it’s one of his Charlton covers I’m declaring to be great this month.
Based on the short-lived, but influential, sci-fi television series, comes this cover of Charton’s Space: 1999. The cover shows lead character Commander John Koenig in a pretty dire situation. He’s adrift in the vacuum of space, his ship wrecked behind him, his helmet just out of reach ahead of him. Surely, he is doomed!
Well, probably not, but it is a dramatic and eye-catching cover. The use of the planet on the left and space on the right in the background gives a sense of scale as well as place. Byrne does a fine job of setting the drama.
This is from early in his career and his drawing had not yet reached its peak, but the roots of the greatest that would break out a year later (his X-Men run) can be seen. The details of the ship and spacesuit, the layout of the page, the natural urgency of the pose, the character’s expression, all show that John Byrne was going to be one hell of a force in comic books.
There’s one other aspect of this cover that I think makes it great: The coloring. Byrne penciled, inked, and colored this cover. Charlton had several covers in those days that had a more sophisticated use of color than even Marvel and DC Comics. There’s a wonderful flow and texture to the watercolor used to color this cover. It’s subtle, but it adds a depth to the art that the standard coloring of comic books lacked.
Collectors with a discerning eye in 1976 would have thought to themselves when seeing this cover, “This Byrne fellow is gonna go far.”
And, of course, they would have been right.
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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.