Category Archives: comic books

Gil Kane Strikes Again

For the third time, Gil Kane makes an appearance in my monthly look at great comic book covers series. And how could he not? Mr Kane was one of the greatest comic book illustrators of all time and his covers were consistently fantastic. And this month’s installment is just another example of why he was the master of the comic book cover.

In 1971, beginning with the cover date of November, Marvel Comics decided to change the layout of their covers. Instead of an illustration framed by the edge of the book itself, it was decided to draw a box or a frame on the cover in which the illustration would be placed. It was an experiment that lasted a little over a year. From what I can find, the art-in-a-box cover design went for, at least, a 14 issue run, but some titles went longer.

I didn’t find any reason given for why Marvel’s editors decided to try this experiment. I’m just speculating here, but I think was to be able to break the frame and make the art pop off the page. After all, you can’t break the frame if it is the edge of the comic. Although not all did, most of the covers that I looked at took advantage of this design element.

And, boy! Does this month’s cover break the frame!

It’s the March 1972 issue of Creatures On The Loose (#16). Take a look:

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Isn’t that awesome?

Not only does the cover benefit from Kane’s drawing mastery, but his design takes full advantage of breaking the frame. However, he is doing more than just giving the illusion of three dimensionality, as in the case of Gulliver Jones’ arm and the handle of the bad guy’s spear at the top of the frame. His blue baddie at the bottom of the page elevates this cover to a masterpiece by expanding the scene to what is going on off of the page itself. The viewer has become immersed in the scene.

Kane does this by using the look over the shoulder pose and the appearance of the blue baddie giving a battle cry. This gives the indication that there may be a whole horde of baddies charging in to do battle with our hero. Just maybe not all blue.

It is so awe-inspiring when I see an artist do such great story-telling with simple placement, pose, and the direction of a character’s eyes.

Absolutely brilliant. Gil Kane scores again.

Packing Peanuts!

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This Month’s Great Cover

I have to admit Steve Ditko isn’t one of my favorite artists. He was very good, but his style just didn’t speak to me. In my opinion, his style didn’t work all that well in the superhero genre. It was better suited for the monster/horror and sci-fi/fantasy genres. But he did find his niche when he drew Doctor Strange stories. He could freely combine his weird and unique style to its fullest effect in those books.

But, despite my somewhat non-fondness of his art, Ditko certainly belongs in the company of the great and influential artists of comic books. Why his design of the Spider-Man costume alone puts him in the Comic Book Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing. (There should be a Comic Book Hall of Fame.)

As I said, I never really warmed up to his style, but dawgoneit! I dig this month’s cover!

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I love it!

It’s the first issue of Charlton‘s monster/sci-fi/horror/fantasy series Haunted, first published in 1971. See? The genres for which Ditko was best suited. Am I right or am I right?

I think this is one of the most eye-catching covers in all of comic bookdom. This is due mainly to the use of negative space. There’s so much white on the cover. The masterful use of line weight, the varying thick and thin, is so simple and yet so dramatic. And the whole effect has me thinking of those masks worn by the unknown wrestlers of yore.

Also, using the eyes and mouth to preview the three stories to be found within, all of which were penciled and inked by Ditko, is a terrific use of design.

I think this cover is a brilliant combination of cartooning and design, and it must have jumped off the newsstands.

Packing Peanuts!

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Here’s this month’s great cover…

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Look at that! Isn’t it wonderful?

This month’s great cover in comic book history comes from the September 1991 issue of Marvel Comics Presents (#84) featuring one of Marvel Comics’ premiere superheroes: Wolverine. The artist behind this masterpiece is Barry Windsor-Smith. He did everything on it – pencils, inks, and color.

Windsor-Smith started working for Marvel in the late 60s, because Stan Lee liked his Jack Kirby-like way of drawing. But, Windsor-Smith soon began to develop his own signature style. Like most comic book artists, he improved greatly upon his early efforts the more he worked. Unlike some comic book artists, he just kept getting better and better and better. Some of the great artists would reach a plateau and then their work began to slip. Not Windsor-Smith. At least not yet. This month’s cover was done more than twenty years after he started in the industry.

We see a blood-spattered Wolverine with his claws partially retracted. He looks peaceful, yet terribly weary. He seems to be, not just exhausted from the completion of a pitched battle, but totally done in by a lifetime of pitched battles. Has he had enough?

What also strikes me about this cover is its sophistication. This isn’t a typical cover of a super-hero heroically battling some super-villain or coming to the rescue of some citizen in imminent peril. This cover is deep with nuance and complexity. This ain’t just some kid’s throw away when finished reading super-hero fantasy. This is art.

I should note I hadn’t seen this comic book when it came out in 1991. I wasn’t buying this title then. I didn’t know this cover existed. In fact, I spotted it for the first time fairly recently when putting away inventory at Nostalgia Zone’s warehouse and I was quite impressed. I made note to include this cover in my great covers series.

And I was in for another surprise! When I searched for an image of the cover today, I discovered the artwork was a wraparound piece. When I spotted that I was even more stunned by the beauty Barry Windsor-Smith had wrought.

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This was the cover I was expecting to find. It’s still a powerful masterpiece.

Bravo, sir!

Packing Peanuts!

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This Month’s Great Cover: Fantastic Four 143

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Just look at it. What more could you want from a comic book cover?

You know, one thing I like about this first blog of the month for Warehouse Find is: I don’t really have to write much. The first week of each month I feature what I think is a great  (or, at least, important) cover from the world of comic books. All that pretty much needs to be done is post the image and say, “Ain’t it great?!”

Well, I’ll give you a little more than that. This month’s cover is the third Fantastic Four cover to be featured. The first was the premier issue of that vitally important comic book. It wasn’t a particularly great cover, but it was a good one by the King, Jack Kirby, and it changed the tone of comic books forevermore. The second cover depicted a desperate Thing searching through fiery debris for the Human Torch as drawn by John Byrne. He’s the Human Torch, why worry about him being in fiery debris? It’s a head scratcher.

This month’s cover is also the second entry drawn by the great Gil Kane. As I noted when I wrote about that other cover by Mr Kane, it is clear why he did so many covers in those days. His work was awesome!

So, we’ve got the First Family of Marvel Comics (sans the Invisible Girl, she may have been on maternity leave or something, so the Inhuman Medusa was filling in for her) battling their arch foe Dr Doom. Dr Doom just might be the greatest comic book villain this side of The Joker and he’s giving the Human Torch quite a blast. The Ever Lovin’ Blue-eyed Thing has just broken his chains and declared it’s clobberin’ time. Sure, he doesn’t say it, but we know he’s saying it. Mr. Fantastic is doing his stretchy thing, while Medusa has that snazzy red hair. All right, that last thing was a tad uncalled for, but I do like red hair. Kane includes a bit of the futuristic machinery Doom always employed. And just what is the button he’s pushing going to do?

“Get set for the greatest battle issue ever!”

What’s not to love?!

Packing Peanuts!

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Check Out This Month’s Great Cover…

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Well, it’s time to take a look at a cover by one of the undisputed great illustrators in the history of comic books. Neal Adams brought a sense of realism to comic book art that hadn’t existed before in the art form. Adams’ influence on the Silver Age (1956 – 1969) and Bronze Age (1970 – 1985) is undeniable. If only it had reached the 1990s and saved us from certain artists.

*cough cough cough Rob Liefeld cough cough*

Sorry. A little hack in my throat.

So, let’s look at the eye-catching cover of Batman #251 (Sept. 1973). It focuses on the looming terror of Batman’s archest foe the Joker. Look at that. One of the greatest  superheroes ever plus one of the greatest supervillains ever drawn by one of the greatest artists ever all combining to make one of the greatest comic book covers ever.

Hyperbole! I love it!

Adams also draws the story art, which includes the Joker throwing Batman to a hungry shark. It’s some really good stuff.

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Packing Peanuts!

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This month’s great cover…

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It’s time once again to write about another excellent comic book cover. This month we are looking at the cover of Sub-Mariner #6 (October 1968). It was drawn by the great John Buscema. I have written about Buscema and his work on The Avengers back in June, but I thought it was time to look at one of his covers. I think he, along with Gil Kane, Neal Adams, and Jim Steranko, was one of the Silver Age’s greatest comic book illustrators.

Beginning in 1968, Buscema was handling the covers as well as the interior art for the first few issues of one Marvel’s more complex characters: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Namor had a love/hate kind of relationship with surface-dwellers. In his early appearances in the Fantastic Four stories, he could just as easily be the villain as the hero. He was complicated.

Of Buscema’s short run on this series there are other covers I could have gone with (and might in future), but I chose issue #6, because it is so dynamic. We find our hero in pitched battle with the villain Tiger Shark. We’re in close and we can see these combatants are evenly matched. The strain of their muscles is as obvious as the looks of determination on their faces. Each man feels he must triumph in a battle that looks to be to the death.

The cover doesn’t need the headline of Death to the Vanquished! The illustration alone tells us that. The use of color sweetens this fantastically dramatic image. As does the close-up view. It being a close-up is what had me pick this cover over the other Buscema Sub-Mariner cover creations.

Bravo! Mr. Buscema! Bravo!

Packing Peanuts!

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Comic Con is still about the comics?

Bob and crew at SDCC2015

Last month saw the pop culture extravaganza that is the San Diego Comic-Con or, as it is more often referred to, simply Comic-Con. And, as has been the case for the last few years, there was the grumbling that Comic-Con was barely about comic books anymore. Some disgruntled voices decried the turning over of the convention to movies, television, and video games. Well, I’ve never been to Comic-Con, so I have no first hand knowledge of whether or not those complaints are warranted. I reached out to my friend and previous guest blogger at Warehouse Find, Michael Noble, who lives out at that end of the country and has attended his fair share of Comic-Cons to weigh in on this situation. Is it true that Comic-Con is giving comics the short end of the stick?

Here’s what Michael had to say:

Jim sez: “I’ve been hearing a lot about how Comic-Con almost completely lacks the presence of comic books … I thought you might have an opinion on that …”

You betcher Bippy I have an opinion on it.

I’ve heard this sentiment/concern/statement/chide countless times over the years. Over and over and over and over and over again.

Well … here’s the bottom line on it: It’s simply not true. Not in the least. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

First though, I’m going to pepper you with a little Comic-Con history to bring you up to speed.

Comic-Con International (better known as “San Diego Comic-Con” or “SDCC”) has been around since the 1970s when a merry little band of San Diego comic enthusiasts decided to put on a dry run mini convention (coined as the “Golden State Comic-Minicon”), a comic and multi-genre entertainment event, in the hope it would attract enough attention to launch a larger, longer event thereafter. And it worked. That one day get together in March of 1970 boasted 145 attendees and drummed up enough enthusiasm to fuel a 3-day, 300+ attended event in August of the same year. Each year thereafter, attendance swelled. It topped 1,000 just a few years later in 1973, ballooned past 10,000 in 1989, grew to 100,000+ in 2005 and currently fills the halls of the San Diego Convention Center and surrounding venues and hotels annually with more than 167,000 attendees.

The idea of Golden State Comic-Minicon featured comic books and science fiction/fantasy related film and television primarily. Since, the convention hosts a huge array of popular culture elements spanning a wide swath of genres which include horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels.

But its tenet, its mission statement, has never wavered. In part its declaration states a dedication to “… creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.” Note that “comics” is the first and foremost item featured in that credo and continues throughout. And guess what? Comic-Con has never let that aspect of its being falter.

Now … it’s elaboration time as promised.

To be certain, San Diego Comic-Con – monster of a multi-day event that it’s become – is filled to the brim with all things popular culture, not just comics. There’s no doubt about that.

I’ve attended SDCC since the 1980s. I know of what I speak. I’ve seen its change and progression first-hand, from participation in the mere thousands to the hordes who now populate its halls, panels, seminars, workshops and exhibitor floor space. The days of being able to walk up to a kiosk to purchase tickets for next year’s event and be on your way without jumping through hoops? Long gone. A distant and fond memory.

But if you’re of the mind that the comic aspect of it has been lost to (or overwhelmed by) all that surrounds Comic-Con’s Mission Statement, you’re either: 1) lazy, or 2) obtuse.

Comic books, comic art, comic artists and writers and their ilk, comic related materials, instructive panels and workshops, artwork reviews, ad nauseum are the backbone of Comic-Con. Part of the fun of attending the show is delving into it head first to find that sought-after issue of Fantastic Four to pad your collection. It’s the discovery of a once-out-of-reach original Superman cover surprisingly within your grasp after all those years of admiration. It’s that illusive artist (like Mike Ploog who I’ve written about previously) waiting around the corner to sign an autograph, snap a photo with or commission a sketch from.

All you have to do is delve in and not be seduced by the glitz and glamour of the ever-present Hollywood machine or the scantily clad cosplayers. Stay mindful of what The Con is about and you’ll see, plain as day, Comic-Con hasn’t lost its comic book roots in the least.

Michael Noble blogs regularly at Hotchka.com and can often be heard on the Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules podcast.

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