Category Archives: comic books

Space… It Makes For A Great Cover!

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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.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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.

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Neal Adams Gets Another Great Cover

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This is the third time one of the all-time greats, Neal Adams, gets a great cover declaration by me. Adams was quite a force in comic books in the late 1960s into the 1970s. He brought a greater sense of realism to the look of comic art. Along with writer Denny O’Neil, he helped to bring Batman away from the campy influence of Adam West’s version as seen on the popular TV series. His Batman was more menacing and frightening. He was grittier. And much more dangerous.

But, it’s not a Batman cover that I’m looking at this month. As you can see, it’s the cover of DC Comics’ Strange Adventures #212 (June 1968) and it features one of the coolest looking characters in comic books (at least I think so): Deadman.

Deadman was created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. The character’s actual name was Boston Brand and he was a daring trapeze artist whose professional name was Deadman. Brand would wear the red costume and painted his face white for his performances under the big top. During a performance, an assassin known as Hook, whose missing hand had been replaced by a hook (what else?), murdered Brand. The acrobat became a ghost.

As a ghost, he kept the appearance of his Deadman trapeze artist persona. Deadman was determined to bring his murderer to justice. Using the power, given to him by the Hindu goddess Rama Kunsha, to possess the bodies of the living, he was determined to find his killer. Interesting character idea, don’t you think?

And look at that cover.

First off, it has a wicked Dutch angle. I like Dutch angles. It might be the influence of that campy Batman TV series on me, but I really do like them. And Adams gives us a darned dramatic one on this cover.

I think Adams also does an excellent job of using depth in this composition. Hook’s right arm and hook really look as though they are reaching off the cover toward the reader. It can be tricky getting that foreshortening just right. And Neal gets it just right.

And there’s the anatomy and poses of the characters that look real. This cover is a fine example of how Neal Adams made comic book art look possible in the real world while still being dynamic and exciting. This is also a good example of the grittiness this great artist was able to put across in his art. It’s so cinematic. This scene looks as though it resides in the same hard-bitten, dirty, grimy world as such film classics as The French Connection (1971), Midnight Cowboy (1969), and The Conversation (1974).

It’s a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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.

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Two Legends Flex Their Muscles On This Month’s Great Cover

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I’m returning to Marvel Comics, my true love when it comes to comic books, for this month’s great cover. Let’s look at Sub-Mariner #20 (December, 1969). The legendary artists responsible for this action packed cover are John Buscema (pencils) and Johnny Craig (inks).

Buscema is one of my favorites. I especially like his work from the mid to late 1960s, which included The Avengers, Silver Surfer, and Sub-Mariner. When he took over the penciling of The Avengers, readers were treated to an artist approaching the peak of his abilities. His art was something like a combination of the two previous pencilers who worked on that series. First, was Jack Kirby, then Don Heck. Buscema combined Kirby’s dynamic action with Heck’s more accurate anatomy drawing.

The results are fantastic. (I have previously written in more depth about my appreciation of John Buscema’s masterful illustrating work on The Avengers.)

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By “Crime SuspenStories #22” at The Grand Comics Database. Retrieved June 12, 2008., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17904260

Johnny Craig goes back to the days of EC Comics. EC really was an excellent producer of comic books that appealed to older readers as well as the typical kid readers of the other publishers in the 1950s. Then came Sen. Estes Kefauver’s attack on comic books which he believed were leading American children to delinquency. He was particularly displeased by EC and it was one of Craig’s covers, the infamous depiction of a woman’s severed head being held by her killer, that drew much of the good senator’s ire.

Senate hearings were convened. Witnesses were harangued. Senators displayed their righteous indignation. The industry created the Comics Code Authority. EC Comics bid the world of comic books a fond farewell, turned to publishing magazines by dropping all of its titles but one, converting that title from a comic to magazine, and Mad Magazine was born anew. Thanks, Sen. Kefauver!

Well, these two excellent illustrators combined their considerable talents to produce a great cover. It’s an action cover in which the complicated hero Sub-Mariner drops in on one of Marvel’s greatest (also complicated) villains Dr. Doom. An epic battle is about to commence!

What kid could resist such a great cover? Both characters are so well drawn. I especially like Dr. Doom’s pose. Sure, he’s wearing a suit of armor, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still jump into action. This is comic books after all. If an artist can draw it, the character can do it.

I also really like the coloring of this cover, likely to have been provided by another legend of comic books – Marie Severin. The red background is attention grabbing and the use of half-toning in the grey of Doom’s armor, along with the use of white for highlighting, gives it a fairly real-looking metallic look.

The same team of artists provide the interior art for this book and it’s outstanding!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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.

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George Perez: Quite An Artist, Quite A Legacy

This past weekend George Perez, one of the comic book industry’s greatest illustrators, announced he was retiring.

Retire? Hold on while I look that up…

“To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.”

What?! People can do that? How do their bills get paid?

Huh. Oh, well.

So, Perez is doing this retire thing and that got me thinking of when I first saw his illustrations. As I wrote in my blog about discovering Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men in the summer of 1978, I had just determined to become serious about collecting comic books and start buying titles and reading the storylines, instead just buying books with interesting covers. Along with The X-men, I began buying The Avengers.

The first issue I picked up with this new zeal for comics was The Avengers #171 (May, 1978).

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It’s cover was drawn by George Perez and inked by Terry Austin and they proved to be a nearly as potent a creative team as John Byrne  and Austin were on The X-Men. The interior art of this issue of The Avengers was inked by Pablo Marcos and he proved to be an even better fit with Perez’s pencils. Some penciler and inker combinations are truly magical. Perez and Marcos was one such combo.

I quickly began scarfing up back issues of The Avengers, which had become my favorite title. (Oh, how I wish I had done the same with the Dave Cockrum drawn X-Men issues.) And what I saw was a young artist becoming great.

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Perez’s early work in the Avengers was more simple and maybe a little awkward. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the inkers he was paired up with in those early days. His drawings with Vince Colletta or Sam Grainger inking weren’t quite there yet. (See the example from Avengers #141 with Colletta inking, above.) Perez was showing promise, but he was still getting settled in and when he teamed up with Marcos his artwork soared.

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By the time Avengers #161 was produced, Perez and Marcos were creating incredible pages. The action sequences were more dramatic and dynamic. The characters’ anatomy and poses were also more dramatic and more precisely drawn. In the example (see above), how great is that explosive first panel? And the expression on Iron Man’s… um… mask in the fourth panel is far more expressive than any of the faces in that earlier sample.

And Perez’s blossoming as an artist was not only confined to the pages of Earth’s Mightest Heroes. He also turned out some fine work in Marvel’s adaption of the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run. For that series he was teamed up with inker Klaus Janson. And they also gelled well together. In the first sample, just look at the center frame. Fantastic!

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The second sample is an outstanding example of his dramatic splash pages. Also from the Logan’s Run series.

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Finally, I want to look at a cover he did for the Fantastic Four #184 (July, 1977). He did a run of both covers and interior art with pioneer inker Joe Sinnott. Now, I think Sinnott was a fine inker, but by the 1970s his inking tended to overshadow the artist, not compliment them. However, Perez’s style was not too adversely affected.

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I also want to point out that Perez could be a maniac when it came to drawing backgrounds. There would sometimes be an incredible amount of detail involved, but he kept it under control and kept his covers and pages from looking too busy. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think the two covers I’ve included here are good examples of his attention to detail.

And this is all just his work from the 1970s!

George Perez’s career in comic books would span an additional four decades! Over those decades, his artwork maintained the highest quality as he worked for both Marvel and DC Comics. His work always looked fresh. He kept up with the times, while never losing that classic George Perez look. That in itself is a rare and terrific feat.

The man has left an impressive legacy as he now embarks on his well-earned retirement.

Kudos, Mr. Perez!

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And, for my money, no one drew Ultron better than George Perez!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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.

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Tonto Is Surprisingly Menacing On This Great Cover

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This month’s great comic book cover is a surprisingly menacing one. It’s also surprising that it’s by Dell Comics and not EC. Being that it is from late in comic books’ Golden Age, I wonder if it caused anti-comic book crusader Sen. Estes Kefauver any pause for concern.

The popular series The Lone Ranger, with Clayton Moore as the title character, was still in its original run on television when this issue of Tonto hit the newsstands (issue #16 dated August-October, 1954). The Lone Ranger’s faithful companion had gotten his own comic book series and, on this cover anyway, it seems he’s quite the badass!

Not only is the coloring of the cover dark, the tone is dark. Very dark. It sure looks as though Tonto might be more than willing to break that bad guy’s neck. He shows no signs of mercy. His deadly serious look of calm determination is in stark contrast to the look of fear in the bad guy’s eyes. “D-d-don’t kill me, M-m-mister Tonto!”

If the baddie wasn’t wearing the nose and mouth covering handkerchief (the disguise of choice of villains in Hollywood’s Old West) and we didn’t know it was Tonto this cover would certainly have us thinking a Native American is going to kill. With his bare hands!

Don Spaulding’s illustration is masterful. Beautifully done in those darker colors with a flat black background. Tonto’s expression is terrific, if damn cold. Those hands are fantastic and, along with the clothing, look almost photographic.

This really is a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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.

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This Story Is Bonkers!

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Is this R. Crumb? The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Or some other weird underground comic from the 1960s or 70s?

Nope. It’s Marvel Comics‘ double-sized anniversary issue number 200 of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – The Avengers. This issue is dated October, 1980 and… it’s bonkers!

At this point, I’m going to warn you that I will be spoiling the heck out of this 38 year old comic book.

In the lead up (issues #197-199) to a very special issue of The Avengers, readers learn that Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, is pregnant. We also learn that this is no ordinary pregnancy. Not only is it progressing at a highly accelerated rate, according to Ms. Marvel, who would surely know, there is no father. In fact, she stops just short of admitting to The Scarlet Witch that she’s a virgin.

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“When I shouldn’t even be pregnant at all! I never even… I-I mean, there couldn’t be…

Blast it, Wanda, there isn’t a father!

In a matter of days, with the assistance of Dr. Donald Blake, aka The Mighty Thor, and Jocasta, a robot created by the evil Ultron to be his mate (it didn’t work out – long story), Ms. Marvel delivers a healthy baby boy. The big-brained science members of The Avengers whisk the baby away for a battery of tests, while the new mom is wheeled off to her room for some rest. This does not upset Carol, as it might most any other new mother, in fact, she doesn’t want anything to do with the boy. She doesn’t consider him to be her son.

That’s actually probably a good thing considering what happens later. And what happened before.

Much the same as with the pregnancy, the boy grows at an incredible rate. Within hours he is talking and building a special machine for a purpose he refuses to reveal. He’s incredibly intelligent and resourceful; and he’s named himself Marcus.

As Marcus was growing, Captain America thought he’d ask the miracle boy some questions to determine just what is going on.

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Captain America asks, “For starters, where did you come from?”

Marcus answers, “My mother.”

“Yes, we know that, but… that is, how were you conceived?”

“Uhhhm… By my father?”

“Well, of course, blast it! But who is your father?”

“I am.”

Hold the flip phone! Virgin birth? The kid is his own father? Well, what do you know? I guess this can be considered my Christmas blog.

Somehow Marcus is causing all manner of space/time continuity errors to occur. Ordinary people from modern times are being shifted to earlier time periods. Spacecraft from the future have been brought to 1980. A medieval knight attempts to skewer The Scarlet Witch in a hallway of the Avengers Mansion, while an impossibly large T-Rex attacks it from the outside.

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I mean, seriously, that dinosaur is way too big.

Ms. Marvel finally gives in and goes to meet her “son”, who is now a young man, very nearly her own age. When she sees him she feels immediate stirrings. And not the maternal kind.

Eventually, Marcus tells his tale.

He’s the son of an evil time lord named Immortus, who ruled over the timeless realm of Limbo, but he was originally from earth. (It really is a long and convoluted story. Just go with me, OK?) Immortus was lonely in Limbo, so he plucked a woman from earth to be his mate, and along came Marcus 1.0. However, Marcus is not like his father. He is not evil.

When Immortus disappeared, due to a battle with the Avengers, Marcus was abandoned in Limbo. He wandered lonely for what might have been an eternity, when he thought since he was born into Limbo, perhaps he could be born out.

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Taking a page out of his father’s book, Marcus scanned earth for a suitable woman. He found Ms. Marvel, zapped her into Limbo, showed her a good time with the assistance of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and she responded favorably. They… er… gained carnal knowledge of each other, during which Marcus implanted his “essence” into her. (This was approved by the Comics Code Authority?!) She was then sent back to earth a “mere second” after he had abducted her, with no memories of what had happened.

Then came the fast track pregnancy and – voila – Marcus 2.0!

Sadly, his presence was causing the time shift problems and would soon doom the earth if he couldn’t stop it. That’s what the machine he built was supposed to do, but hot-headed, shoot-first-ask-questions-later Hawkeye barged in and destroyed it. That meant Marcus couldn’t stay on earth. His plan had failed. He now had to return to the loneliness of Limbo.

However, he wasn’t going to be alone. Ms. Marvel, feeling an intense attraction and love for Marcus, decided to go with him.

Technically, Marcus isn’t her son. They don’t share DNA. And he existed before she gave birth to him…

She gave birth to him! She doesn’t want to be his mother, she wants to be his lover! That’s bonkers! Right?!

This tale was conceived by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, David Michelinie, and George Perez. Michelinie wrote the final script and the incomparable Perez drew it with inks by Dan Green. Not a woman in the bunch. No mothers around to say, “Boys! This plot line is bonkers!”

Years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation would use the fast track pregnancy and quickly growing alien offspring plot (The Child – Episode 1, Season 2) involving Counselor Troi. However, she didn’t develop the hots for her kid.

Packing Peanuts!

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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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She’s Wanted And On A Great Cover

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Returning to my weekly blog (did you miss me?) just in time to showcase another great comic book cover as part of my monthly series focusing on some of the great covers in the history of comic books. This month I stay with DC Comics (last month I did a Superman: The Man Of Steel cover) to examine the cover of Wonder Woman #240 from February, 1978.

This cover is a little unusual for a super-hero comic. There’s no battle. Wonder Woman isn’t shown to be in any immediate danger. The villain, if that is what he is, seems to be either moving quickly or nervously. It’s difficult to tell if those motion lines depict rapid movement or a shaky hand. I think it’s a shaky hand.

And is that a star on the cuff of the man’s coat? Is this man a general? Does his military status, the top secret file, and the wanted poster mean the American government is after Woman Wonder? What has she done?

So many questions brought up by the cover.

The artwork is top notch. Drawn by one of DC’s best artists Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and inked by DC’s inking machine Dick Giordano. Garcia-Lopez’s style is crisp and clean. His linework is simple and elegant. And his action and anatomy drawing is terrific.

There’s an attention to detail on this cover that is very impressive. The perspective drawing is solid as the artist shows us the top secret file and stamp, the wanted poster, the drawer, gun, and even the everyday items found on a work desk. Right down to the paper clips in the cup and the wood grain on the drawer. There’s even a nick in the drawer to show the desk have been lived in.

Even with all those details, the reader never loses sight of the cover’s action.

I think it’s a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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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