How To Make A Great Cover, Unless Under Deadline

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In 1978, Stan Lee and John Buscema published How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way in an effort to teach young aspiring comic book artists how to draw comic books. It is an excellent, if dated, tutorial covering all aspects of creating exciting, pulse-pounding action that will leap off the page. How to draw figures, how to draw faces, how to make objects look real are covered along with page layout, composition, inking techniques, and how to create drama and the best action sequences. All in less than 160 pages.

My copy, acquired from a local library (I don’t remember if it was purchased or taken out and never returned – I hate to think what the late charges might be), has been well-thumbed, I can tell you.

I will focus on one chapter of this book in particular. I have a reason for this focus which will become apparent later.

It’s chapter eleven – The Comicbook Cover!

As an example, Stan and John focus on a cover of Nova (#12 – August, 1977). It was drawn by Buscema and, of course, it’s pretty damn good. (Hey, it’s by John Buscema. He was one of the masters.) Still, there were a few steps to go through before settling on the final design. A few quick sketches were produced using all the elements called for by the editor: Nova and guest-star Spider-Man are about to do battle in a library, in which we can see an incapacitated civilian.

 

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Stan breaks down the reasoning why the first three sketches were rejected before accepting the fourth design. One had the characters of Nova and Spider-Man too small in the design. Another had the star of the book with his back to the reader. And the third, would have also been nice to not have Spidey’s back to the reader.

Ugh! Editors. So hard to please.

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Eventually, a design was agreed upon and Buscema got to work, along with inker Frank Giacoia, producing the final piece.

The intent of this chapter is to show how important it is to create an exciting, engaging, and eye-catching cover. As Stan puts it:

“As you can imagine, the cover is probably the single most important page in any comicbook. If it catches your eye and intrigues you, there’s a chance you may buy the magazine. If it doesn’t cause you to pick it up, it means one lost sale.

“Consequently, more thought and more work go into the cover than any other page.”

It’s true. As a kid, I would mainly buy comic books based solely on their covers.

Well, the other day I was working at the comic book store (Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis), going through inventory, seeing which books were needed for the online catalog. I came across a cover that made me pause. I stopped and showed it to the store manager. I asked, “What the hell happened here?”

Now, let me be clear. I mean no disrespect to the artists involved: Ed Hannigan and Klaus Janson. Both have produced plenty of fine comic book art, including many covers.

However, The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #17 (1983) looks… Well, it looks dashed off. It’s almost as though the cover wasn’t even thought about until just as the book was going to press.

Editor: “Oh, crap! We need a cover! Ed! Klaus! Draw Spidey! Stat!”

Five minutes later…

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“Ummmm. Sigh… Well! That will have to do. Run it.”

I can’t imagine this cover went through any of the process that cover of Nova went through. My guess is they were hard up against deadline and just needed a drawing of Spider-Man for the cover. Which seems strange as it’s an annual. I was always under the assumption that annuals, since they only come out once a year, have more time to produce.

But you know the old saying about assumptions. “When you make an assumption you make an ass of you and… mption?”

That can’t be 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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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.

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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Images used under Fair Use.

Here’s Another Great Cover

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This is a great cover!

Yes, I know. I’ll get to the elephant (or should that be elephants?) in the room soon enough. First, I want to heap praise on Adam Hughes, creator of this month’s featured cover. His work is amazing. He and, fellow comic book artist, Alex Ross have brought an incredible sense of realism to comic book art (elephants notwithstanding). The work Hughes and Ross do is top level illustration that can set along side such great illustrators as Norman Rockwell and NC Wyeth.

The design and composition of this cover (Catwoman #45, September 2005) are perfect. Hughes’ color choices make clear it is night, but not just night. A moonlit night. This is shown brilliantly through the use of the sheer window treatments reflecting the blue/silver glow cast by the moon. Batman being in almost total silhouette displays one of his greatest weapons: the dark of night. Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot, so using darkness enhances their fear, making them more vulnerable. Hughes’ use of color and shadow add so much to the drama of the scene.

But what has Catwoman in such a state of shock?

Her pose suggests that she was doing her typical flirting with Batman, but something has interrupted her. Her right hand on his face indicates the flirtation, but the look on her face and her dropping her mask shows the mood has been unexpectedly broken. Is it, in fact, not Batman?

Perhaps her shock doesn’t involve the Caped Crusader. Look at her eyes (they’re up here, fellas). She’s not looking back at our hero. She’s looking off to her right. What is she seeing?

It’s breathtakingly brilliant.

Now for the, shall we say, ample breasts that are impossible to not notice. Yeah, let’s say that.

I know there are people who object to the objectifying of women. And they’re right, it can be dehumanizing. I don’t mind seeing sexy looking people whether real or just drawn that way. Sometimes, it gets more than a bit much, though. Tone it down a little, eh?

This cover approaches the line, but I don’t think it crosses it.

However, as I stated at the beginning, Hughes’ sense of realism in his illustrations is one of his greatest attributes. The way he depicts clothing fitting these super-beings looks right. I forget which comic book artist said it, but he said when drawing superheroes the artist draws them essentially naked (the superheroes, not the artist). Well, Hughes and Alex Ross don’t take that approach, not fully anyway. The costumes have creases and folds and really look as though they are inhabited by a body. A hot, sexy body.

In the interest of realism, though, how realistic is it for a cat burglar to be as stealthy, elusive, quick, and flexible as Catwoman while carrying around two elephants  on her chest? (Why do I keep calling them elephants?) I would think they’d just get in the way. Well, she is a super, so it appears she can handle them.

Yes, I said handle them. I didn’t mean it that way. Settle down.

Packing Peanuts!

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