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.)

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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.

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?

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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. 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!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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. 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?

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share..

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. 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.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share..

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. 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.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share..

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. 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.

Thank You!

It’s been one hell of a year, hasn’t it? Social unrest, political strife, economic upheavals, and a global pandemic.

Yep. A hell of a year.

Even so, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my gratitude to those who are so important to Nostalgia Zone.

There’s the staff. Starting with Chris, the owner, who stayed in the store through the three days and nights of protests and riots that came within blocks of our building last summer. I’m not sure what he would have been able to do had the rioters turned their attention to the store, but there he was, willing to go down with the ship. He’s been doing his best to keep up with the online orders and replenish our stock.

And Dave, who although he hasn’t stepped foot in the store since the pandemic forced a shutdown in March, has been working behind the scenes to help keep us going. And, I must say, the store doesn’t feel right without him. Personally, I miss Dave very much. We’ve been friends since 1996 and seeing him each Saturday was something that made my week. Every week. I haven’t seen Dave since March.

Then there is the new guy – Joe. Joe has been helping to organize the store and make room in the basement. (Oh, if you could see that basement! Joe is a saint!) He’s been pushing hard on our eBay sales and getting some good response there. Keep checking eBay, folks, Joe posts new items as often as he can.

And some thanks should go to Michael, who has occasionally helped out with the blog whenever I feel tapped for ideas. I know the blog has been a bit sparse since the pandemic took hold. I still try to get at least two out a month and Michael’s help has been greatly appreciated.

Most of all, we need to thank our customers. You guys have been great. We’ve had to close up once again to in store traffic, because the Covid is just spiking too high these days. Chris had been opening the store on weekends the last couple of months, but, with the current surge in cases here in Minnesota, he felt it would be too dangerous to staff and customers to allow in store business.

We all know a comic book and collectables store needs to be browsed. That’s its main appeal. People need to be able to sift through the boxes and shelves to find those missing items to fill the holes in their collections; or to find those treasures they didn’t know they had to have until it was in front of their eyes. But, with this pandemic, it’s just too risky.

We are still online, though. You can visit Nostalgia Zone from the safety of your home and browse through our catalog and make purchases. You can have your order mailed or you can arrange to pick it up at the store.

So, to all our longtime customers – Thank you so much for your business. We can’t say it enough just how much we appreciate you all.

To all our new customers – Thank you for checking us out and we look forward to making Nostalgia Zone your go to store for all those treasures you just gotta have.

2020 has been a hell of a year. We have high hopes that a vaccine will soon be available and we can get back to seeing you all in the store in 2021.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to see Dave again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay safe! Wear a mask!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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. 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.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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 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.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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 Apple Podcasts.

Uri Geller To The Rescue!

I’m a skeptic. That means if you want me to accept that someone has supernatural powers I will need some pretty darn good evidence. I need more than just someone’s word or the demonstration of a few parlor tricks. I will need to be convinced the person with special, super-human powers isn’t cheating.

This doesn’t mean I can’t suspend my disbelief and accept that there are such gifted (or cursed) characters in fiction. When I watch movies and television or read novels and comic books, I can accept that Mr. Fantastic can stretch, that Dorothy is in the Land of Oz, that Storm can control the weather, that Mr. Spock can mind-meld, and that Harry Potter is a wizard. It’s fiction. It’s fantasy. And in comic books, if it can be drawn, it can be done.

In the real world, though, it’s a different story.

Uri Geller

Enter Uri Geller. In the 1970s, this young man from Israel caught the world’s attention by bending spoons. He claimed he did it with his mind. However, his hands always seemed to be involved. Hmm. I wonder if maybe he was physically bending those spoons in secret and then using sleight of hand to make it appear as though the utensils were being bent by his mind. Sleight of hand or superpowers? Which seems more likely?

James Randi

In 1973, Geller appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny had started his show biz career as a magician, so he had some insights that the average person who was convinced by Geller didn’t. (By the way, some of those convinced people included scientists.) Johnny had his doubts about young Geller and he enlisted James “The Amazing” Randi to help with an upcoming appearance by the spoon bender. Johnny wanted to put in some controls to prevent Geller from cheating. If that was what he was doing, he wouldn’t be able to do his tricks.

Neither Geller nor any of his people were allowed to bring props or to have any contact with those provided by the show. The “psychic” phenom would be presented with the items when he walked onto the set. Not a moment earlier.

With controls, failure.

Geller failed. In front of millions of viewers.

He excused his failure on not feeling strong and he suggested that Johnny was putting undue pressure on him. You can watch the infamous appearance with Johnny and get some more insights on Geller’s “abilities” from James Randi here.

One would think such a public failure would have ended Geller’s popularity, but no. His appearance on the Tonight Show only led to his getting more bookings. He was soon appearing on The Merv Griffin Show and he was definitely feeling strong. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t seen the appearance), no controls were put in place and his powers were in full force.

Huh. Imagine that.

Without controls, success.

Sadly, 27 years after Geller’s failure on the Tonight Show, the middle-aged “psychic” phenom returned as a guest of Carson’s replacement, Jay Leno. And, much like most of Geller’s other showcases of his abilities, no controls were in place. Geller reached into his old bag of tricks, the same half a dozen or so, and his powers were once again in full force.

Huh. Imagine that.

(Did you know Johnny wanted David Letterman for his replacement?)

Enter Marvel Comics. In 1976, Stan Lee knew a good gimmick when he saw one and he called in writer/editor Marv Wolfman. “Marv! I want you to write that amazing young man who bends things into one of our comic books!” Wolfman wrote Geller a guest appearance in Daredevil #133 (May, 1976). Not as a mildly interesting fellow who bends keys, reproduces drawings by others without having seen them, and restarts stopped watches, no, no, no, Geller has abilities in the story that put all those tricks to shame.

In the comic, Geller can communicate telepathically with Mind-Wave, the villain of the issue. He can psychically locate the evil-doer. And he can bend metal pipes. With his mind. And there’s none of that rubbing with a finger and repeating, “Bend! Bend! Bend!” theatricality.

Comic book Geller bending a metal pipe.

I think I can safely say Uri Geller has never bent a metal pipe in his life. Certainly not with his mind.

In the section of the comic book normally set aside for letters to the editor, Marv Wolfman wrote the story behind the Geller appearance. Yeah, he was skeptical at first, people often are, but a couple bent keys and a reproduced drawing later and Marv was convinced. It’s disappointing, but most people don’t know what to look for when a trickster is at work.

Meh.

In more recent years, Uri Geller has winkingly come clean about not really having super-powers. Besides, just how super of a power is bending spoons anyway?

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

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 Apple Podcasts.