Category Archives: Comic Book Covers

This Month’s Great Cover Is A-Maze-ing

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Steve Ditko returns to my monthly blog series examining great comic book covers. He has been featured twice before. First was a cover he did for Charlton’s Haunted and, more recently, was the cover of a landmark issue of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man.

This month I’ll look at another cover Mr. Ditko created for Charlton. It’s the cover of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #65 (April, 1978). It’s not an action packed, superhero type of cover. Doctor Graves wasn’t a superhero series. It was mystery and suspense, so the way covers were designed was different. Yes, there might be battles with monsters depicted, but the genre leaned more toward stories of psychological battles.

This month’s cover is an excellent example of just such a battle. It’s a man lost in a maze. He’s small and isolated. The bird’s eye view informs us of where he is and it heightens the feeling of isolation. There’s nothing chasing him that we can see. He’s just trapped. Searching.

His facial features consist of essentially seven little dots. And the choice pale white for his face color seems to indicate fear. With his hands pressed against the walls, we’re left wondering: Is he fatigued? Desperate? Does he feel as though the walls are closing in on him? All of the above?

Ditko’s execution is fantastic. The perspective drawing of curved walls mixed in with straight, variously angled walls cannot have been easy to draw. And using the full cover gives the impression that the maze is never-ending.

It is an a-maze-ing cover! (Such a good pun, I had to use it twice.)

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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You- -You Can’t Resist This Month’s Great Cover

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He is considered one of the greats of the Silver Age (1956 – 1969) of Comic Books. He helped hone the image of DC Comics in an effort to compete with the upstart Marvel Comics. (Make Mine Marvel! Whoops. Sorry. I’m a Marvel kid, what can I say?) He was Carmine Infantino and I never really cared for his drawing style.

Yes, I acknowledge he was a good storyteller and overall a good artist. I was just never moved or excited by his work. Especially in the later years of his career, when I thought his people looked too stretchy.

As I enter stock into Nostalgia Zone’s online catalog, I get to check out lots of comic covers. I have had several catch my eye and I note them for future inclusion in my great covers series. Well, whose cover should have caught my eye just recently?

Carmine Infantino’s.

This month’s cover makes excellent use of the entire page with Infantino’s drawing of Death passing quite a ponderous amount of gas. Will The Flash be overcome? Will he die? Will he get the giggles due Death’s nasty farts?

Probably not any of those. (Well, maybe he’ll chuckle to himself a little.)

I also like the use of color. According to comics.org the colorist might be Jack Adler, but they aren’t sure. The green isn’t just one shade, nor is the figure of Death. Trading the traditional black outline look for using two shades of blue, with the darker blue replacing the black, gives the figure a ghostly feel. It’s a nice touch.

I may not be a fan of Infantino’s work in general, but I think this one (and several covers done for the Batman series) looks very good.

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Herb Trimpe, The Hulk, And Another Great Cover

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September 1973

It really was an excellent pairing of artist and character, when Herb Trimpe drew the Hulk. During his run as artist on Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hulk, Trimpe was at the peak of his powers. It’s difficult to define that certain magic that comes from the perfect pairing of artist and character, but when it happens it’s awesome.

Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four; John Buscema and the Silver Surfer; Neal Adams and Batman; John Byrne and the X-Men; are just a few of explosive combinations. (Yes, yes. Each artist produced brilliant art on other titles, but those are the best examples that come to my mind.) And, we can add Herb and Hulk to the list of great combos, because they certainly rocked together.

So, I return to the Trimpe/Hulk pairing once again (I first featured a great cover with that pairing in June, 2016). This month’s great cover, drawn and inked by Trimpe, is from issue number 167 (September, 1973) and it’s a doozy!

There’s the “Dutch Angle” applied to add drama and tension. There is speed involved in the crushing stomp the big baddie is trying to drop on our hero. I mean, look! Those are sparks jumping from Hulk’s right hand, aren’t they?

I’m not sure how impressive of a villain Modok normally is, being mainly a giant head, but, with the addition of that over-sized robot body, he looks pretty damn formidable. Obviously, the Hulk is struggling mightily with a bad guy who declares he isn’t afraid of our great, big, green hero. (But, I’m guessing the Hulk triumphs in the end.)

This is such a great, eye-catching cover. It gives Gil Kane a run for his money and his covers were consistently fabulous. There was just something about Herb Trimpe and the Hulk.

Incredible!

Packing Peanuts!

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Here’s A Few Things About Comic Books

This is going to be one of those round-up blogs, in which I comment on a number of comic book related topics. I have a few things to comment on, but not enough on each topic for a full write up, so…

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It’s real. It’s an actual comic book cover. The February 1966 issue of Lois Lane would finally address the issue of Clark Kent’s flimsy disguise. A nice suit and Buddy Holly glasses? Really? If I removed my glasses and donned a Superman costume, people would still know it was me. So, how did this disguise work in the comic books, TV shows, and movies?

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That’s me, holding the comic book in question. Geez! My toupee needs adjusting.

I read this issue (which you can buy at NostalgiaZone.com – $10 cheap!) and I’m going to spoil it for you. DC Comics doesn’t really explain how Superman keeps fooling the world.

The story in a nutshell: Editor Perry White has to leave the Daily Planet while he serves, temporarily, in the US Senate. His replacement is awfully handsome, a “dreamboat” according to Lois, but he also acts suspiciously. Lois goes on a date with him that first day after work and thinks there’s something up with the guy.

She learns he is the leader of S.K.U.L. (Superman Killers’ Underground League) and she gets roped into a plot to kill Supes. She gets Lana Lang to help her decode the instructions she had been given by this secret underground league. When the message is decoded, Superman bursts in on Lois and Lana and makes that declaration we see on the cover. Lana does admit they’ve had their suspicions.

Superman then removes his mask and he turns out to be the leader of the kill Superman club. But, he’s really an FBI agent trying to smoke out that League and he enlists Lois and Lana to help him. Continued next issue.

They don’t exactly explain how Superman/Clark Kent can fool the world with a suit and glasses.

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The sexism just oozes from the narration paragraph at the top. “The Daily Planet’s pretty reporter,” “cute nose.” Yuck!

While reading this comic book from 52 years ago, I was struck by how blatantly sexist it is in its treatment of women and Lois Lane in particular. Lane is an investigative reporter, yet she’s described as stumbling onto stories. Her immediate reaction upon meeting the new editor is to think of him as a dreamboat. And neither Lane nor Lang bring up the topic of marriage, yet that’s what “Superman” deems the best way to berate these women for their stupidity. Marriage must have been a major theme in the Lois Lane series, after all it was a “girl’s” comic.

Switching gears, a couple months back, on a Facebook comic book fan group page, there was a discussion of whether the cover of Marvel’s Fantastic Four #1 was an homage to or a rip-off of the cover illustration of DC’s The Brave and The Bold #28 (the first appearance of the Justice League Of America). Look below for a comparison.

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Compostionally the two cover are very much alike. I prefer the Fantastic Four cover, because I prefer Jack Kirby’s drawing to Mike Sekowsky’s. Although, Sekowsky’s anatomy drawing is better and FF #1 isn’t Kirby’s best cover. It’s good, just not his best.

(OK, I’m a Marvel kid. I’m required by the MMMS to always prefer Marvel covers. Even if drawn by Rob Liefe… NO! There’s no way I can do that! I must draw the line somewhere!)

At first, I thought it was coincidence. Then I learned that the Fantastic Four was the result of a mandate from Atlas Comics publisher, Martin Goodman, to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create a superhero group to compete with the Justice League of America, DC’s super team that debuted just about a year earlier. Learning that bit of history has me leaning toward rip-off.

What do you think?

Finally, as part of that JLA/FF discussion, someone brought up the practice of artists copying other artists in the creation of comic books. They provided an image (see below) that certainly is evidence of copying.

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Top frame: Jack Kirby • Middle frame: Gil Kane • Bottom frame: Rich Buckler

There’s no denying the second two frames were copied from work done by Kirby in the first frame, assuming that image is the original use of that punch. You will note that Gil Kane (second frame) made a couple changes to the pose: Captain America’s left arm is held differently and his hips are turned to the right. Kane’s variation, in my opinion, makes the pose a little on the awkward side, especially the lower part of his left leg.

Gil! If you’re going to copy the master, copy the master.

Someone in the group discussion claimed that Stan Lee, himself, would hand artists frames of comic art, usually drawn by Kirby, and instruct them to copy that frame. This revelation was offered without any source citation, so it may be untrue. And it may be a case of artists just copying other artists, in this case Kirby, because the other artists may have solved a difficult problem. When you consider how quickly artists had to get the work done with looming deadlines and the need to do as many pages as possible in a day to get decent pay, copying is understandable.

Artists were paid lousy. If you could only manage one page a day, you’d starve.

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A Great Cover To Get Excited About

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Working for a comic book store has its moments. Sometimes you’re able to find that one issue for which a customer had been looking far and wide and for so long. There are the occasions when a little kid comes looking for advice on what to collect. (I always tell them to find something they like and collect that. Don’t worry about value, but keep it in good shape. Comic book collecting should be fun.) And sometimes we get a customer who is just damn excited to find a comic book drawn by their favorite artist. An original, not a reprint. From the early days. And it’s affordable!

That last scenario happened on Saturday. A fellow came in and found himself a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #33 (February 1966) drawn and inked by the incomparable Steve Ditko. It would be his first original Amazing Spider-Man purchase. Until that Saturday, he had been collecting reprints. The customer placed his find up by the register for safe keeping as he searched around for any other gems. That’s when I noticed the cover.

Ditko, along with Jack Kirby, was instrumental in creating the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee in the early 1960s. His style is unmistakable and, to be honest, doesn’t always work for me. But this cover caught my eye.

It was Ditko who designed Spider-Man’s look. He is responsible for what must be the second most iconic costume in all of comic books. First would have to be Superman, but Spider-Man is right up there. That’s a hell of an achievement.

The cover says it is “The Final Chapter” and we see our hero, apparently trapped, as the water rises. The cover is done simply and effectively with tension and drama. But is Spider-Man really trapped? Is he contemplating his escape? Or is he giving up and letting the flood waters take him?

Surely, our hero isn’t giving up.

The composition is straight forward and elegant. Spidey is right at the center trapped with the water is rising. What will he do? The text helps set the tension. Can this possibly be the final chapter? Is it the end of our hero?!

The reader just has to find out!

That’s an effective cover. And it is very gratifying to know the copy we had in the shop has found a loving home.

(Hmmm. It’s curious. The other Amazing Spider-Man cover I declared great also had Spidey threatened by rising water. It seems I have a thing for wet Spider-Men. I might have to call my therapist.)

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January’s Great Comic Book Cover Is By The King

29715I’ve said this before: When I was younger and first collecting comic books, I didn’t really care for Jack Kirby’s artwork. I did come to appreciate when I got older and had studied comic book art very closely and for a long time. Lately, I’ve been hearing other comic book collectors saying the same thing. Although they haven’t said how much they’ve studied the art, they have come to an appreciation and love for Kirby’s genius.

With this month’s great cover, I think I might have been a fan of Kirby in my younger years, if one thing would have been true. If Bill Everett would have inked more of the King’s work. In those days, Mike Royer, Vince Colletta, or Joe Sinnott were teamed with Kirby most often. They were all fine inkers, but Bill Everett, a excellent artist in his own right, seemed to really gel with his fellow comic book pioneer.

Look at that cover (The Mighty Thor #171, December 1969). Penciled by Kirby, it has many of his telltale features. There’s the round biceps, the odd-looking yet expressive hands, and those great skyscrapers. And, of course, that dynamic struggle pose between to super-powered foes. Kirby was so good at dynamic.

On this cover, there’s also a more defined anatomy. More restrained somehow. More disciplined. And I love the expression on The Wrecker’s (he’s the guy in the green jumpsuit) face. There’s something about those eyes. I attribute these elements of greatness to Everett’s inking. Everett should have been Kirby’s inker far more often. If this cover is any indication, they would have made a hell of a team.

It’s a great cover.

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Here’s This Month’s Great Comic Book Cover

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This month’s great comic book cover comes from the religious Treasure Chest series (volume 1, number 5 – August 18, 1966). I haven’t read this comic, but I thinking it’s a safe bet that, since in was published in 1966, it’s not going to have a very sympathetic view toward the Native peoples who were fighting for their land and way of life. The title – The March To Glory: The Story of Custer’s Last Stand – pretty much confirms my suspicion.

But, I’ll put America’s troubled and sometimes shameful past aside to look at what I think is a great cover by artist Reed Crandall.

Although, what exactly happened during the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or the Battle of the Greasy Grass as it is called by Native Americans, will never be known, the image depicts Custer separating his forces as a Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, or Arapaho warrior observes. Since most of us know the results of the battle (Custer’s forces were soundly defeated), we can assume the splitting up of his men was probably not a good idea. Also, knowing the history, there’s a sense of foreboding to a lone warrior witnessing Custer’s error.

Crandall does an excellent job rendering the warrior. I don’t know if the garments worn are accurate, but the drawing is wonderfully done. It’s not a comic book superhero we see, but a realistically drawn man. The anatomy is right and looks real. There’s no exaggeration, no over-muscled physique. The coloring is muted with the exception of the bright orange markings of the Native’s battle gear.

Sometimes an illustration of a scene anticipating a great battle can be every bit as great as the battle scene itself. And that’s the case with this month’s great cover.

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