Tag Archives: DC Comics

Another Great Cover By Neal Adams

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Neal Adams once again makes an appearance in my great comic book covers series. Hey, it’s Neal Adams. He’s gonna have multiple entries. His artwork had a vibrancy and a sense of excitement that other DC Comics artists lacked. Sure, Curt Swan was a really good artist, but his stuff was kinda… dull.

Adams’ work was exciting. His characters were full of movement and life. He had a command of dynamic anatomy that few artists could match. In fact, Gil Kane might have been the only comic artist in those days who could surpass Adams in that regard.

The cover of Superman #237 (May 1971) isn’t flawless. That right leg of Superman’s seems a tad too enlarged and distorted. But look at those “zombies.” Each face has its own story behind it. I’m very curious as to what the story is with the kid “zombie” on the far right, at the front of the mob. What’s with the grey hair and the male pattern baldness? Why does he look so old? Is he a kid or an old little person? Curious.

The white outline around Superman is a good touch, as well. It separates our hero from the mob and makes it appear as though he is popping off the page. That’s something all comic artists strive for. And here Adams achieves it with a simple white outline.

It may not be Neal Adams’ best cover, but it’s still great.

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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.

batman-251-page-24

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The best portrayal of the Joker…

JOKER

Is Heath Ledger’s, of course. His was the most plausible version of the Joker in film or television so far. I have to admit I have not seen Jared Leto’s Joker yet, but from what I’ve heard he’s barely in the Suicide Squad movie anyway. Ledger’s performance was based on how such a character would be in the real world. He wasn’t dropped into a vat of nasty chemicals that bleached his skin and snapped his mind. His mind was snapped somehow, the audience is never told how, but I’m certain a vat of chemicals wasn’t involved. His clown look was achieved with simple, mundane makeup.

In fact, until I read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke many years ago, as I started getting interested in Batman, I had no idea the Joker didn’t wear clown makeup. I had been a Marvel kid for most of my life, what did I know about DC’s universe?

However, I’m not going to heap more praise on Ledger’s Joker here. No, I’m going to praise the creepiest Joker. Cesar Romero’s Joker. To my mind, that was the most creepy and scary version. Of all the portrayals of Batman’s archest villain, Romero’s was the most clown-looking one. And that clown look is pretty unsettling.

I’m also taking into account the fact that the Batman TV series in the ’60s was my earliest exposure to Batman and Robin, Batgirl (Yvonne Craig – yum), and all those villains. And being a kid when I first watched that great series, I took it seriously. I didn’t realized the campy take of the show. Adults watching the show caught it and liked it for that. But we kids didn’t pick up on the humor. We believed it!

So, the fact I was a naive kid watching Batman, taking it all so seriously, probably still plays into how creepy I think Romero’s Joker is. There was something about Cesar Romero’s voice and laugh that really felt like lunacy. And I think that Romero’s insistence to not shave his mustache and have the clown white applied right over it also added to the creep factor. Of course, adult fans of the show at the time probably felt the makeup over mustache look just added to the camp factor of the show.

Regardless, Ledger may have made the Joker seem real. But the Joker I get skeeved out the most by and still like the most is by the originator: Cesar Romero.

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Power Records Presents…

“Power Records presents…”

Those were usually the first three words you would hear when you played the record of the comic book and record set published by Power Records. And it was always exciting to hear those three words. Hearing them meant the comic book in your hands was about to come alive. There would be professional voice actors, music, sound effects, and that little ping sound letting you know to turn the page.

There were comic/record sets for Marvel and DC Comics. There were sets for Spider-Man, the Hulk, Capt. America, and the Fantastic Four. As well as Superman and Batman. And there were sets for Werewolf By Night, Dracula, Man-Thing, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Planet of the Apes and Star Trek had their sets, too!

In the mid 1970s, these were coveted items for young comic book collectors. I may have had Capt. America and the Hulk, but my friend had the Fantastic Four.

Many of these were taken from actual comic books from the day, but plenty of them were created specifically for these sets. The great Neal Adams was the illustrator for many of those made exclusively for Power Records. The art in Adams’ books is naturally terrific if not always accurate. In the Star Trek book Passage to Moauv Lt. Uhura was displayed as a white, blond woman and Mr. Sulu had become a black man. And Yeoman Prentiss became a man. The names weren’t changed.

Strange.

Those weird changes aside, these were awesome!

YouTube has many of Power Records’ titles posted with video of the pages of these excellent comics. You’re gonna want to check ’em out. Below is a list of some of my favorites…

The Curse of the Werewolf

Captain America

The Monster of Frankenstein

The Hulk

That’s just a few. There are many more.

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It isn’t all about Marvel…

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Well, I’m doing it! I’m crossing over into DC Comics territory. I was a Marvel Comics kid who would rarely pick up a DC title back in the early days of my collecting. For some reason, Batman and Superman and all those other DC characters didn’t interest me. I took the motto “Make Mine Marvel” to heart in those days. But,as I got older and more serious about collecting, I worked my way into the DC Universe.

This was when I mainly bought comic books with exciting covers. But, I also liked the monster stories. And because I liked monsters so much, I laid down my hard-earned 20 cents and purchased this DC comic book, The Demon #13 (Oct. ’73).

The Demon was a series created, drawn, and written by the great Jack Kirby. Kirby was king. He was the major talent behind the creation of the language of comic book art. He was a pioneer. He is probably the most influential artist in comic book history and, for years, I thought he sucked.

That’s right. I couldn’t stand his stuff. In my formative years as a cartoonist, I couldn’t understand why he was the king. As I worked to improve my drawing skills, I kept looking at his work and thought it was crap. “He can’t draw!” I would think.

Kirby didn’t draw anatomy well. Look at the hands he’d draw. How many knuckles does a human finger have? How long is a thumb compared to the fingers? Who has squared off fingertips? And that’s just the hands!

I could go on, but I did eventually come to appreciate the greatness of Jack Kirby’s art. So let’s just move on, shall we?

The Demon #13 might have been the first DC Comics title I’d ever purchased. He’s been a favorite character of mine ever since.

This was long before the Demon started speaking in rhyme. That’s the one thing that annoyed me about the later incarnation of the Demon. I like the Hell aspect and that the Demon is kind of evil while still being a good guy. And I love his alter-ego’s name: Jason Blood. Such a cool name!

The art I’ve selected from this issue are all full page illustrations, with one exception. In fact, one is a two page spread!

The cover (see above) has an interesting use of color to help direct the eye. Your attention is drawn to the Demon and his two adversaries. The monsters are less significant, but still important. And the Demon’s declaration, “I’m unleashing every terrible thing your mind can think of! Can you take it?” makes one wonder if he talking to his adversaries or is he talking to us? Probably both.

The two page spread is chock full of Jack Kirby goodness. Some of his best work is this big drawing stuff. It’s big, spectacular! And Kirby was very good at making sure that the design didn’t leave the reader confused. The storyline continues to flow through the dramatic art.

demon 2 page spread

There’s also that black dotted cosmic fire thing the Kirby was so fond of using. I don’t know if he invented it, but it is a signature element of his art. And countless Kirby-influenced artists (myself included) have used the same effect.

So, the next page I’ve selected is the first page of chapter two. It introduces “the Monster”. A not so subtle take on the Frankenstein legend. Kirby’s version was created by Baron Von Evilstein.

demon monster

Baron Von Evilstein! That’s fantastic! With a name like that how could you not be evil? That name can’t help but pigeon-hole a fellow. Even if he wanted to be a philanthropist, how could he while named Evilstein?

The Monster is huge. He’s craggy and menacing. And I love the metal bars that protrude from him. Maybe not quite the same as the flat-headed creature that Boris Karloff brought to life, but the similarities are there.

There’s a single frame that I’ve included that has its focus on the creatures hands.The hands are stretched out imploringly to a woman he sees as a friend. It brings to mind Karloff’s so expressive use of his hands in his portrayal of the Monster. No other actor who played the Monster ever came close to Karloff. Part of the reason for that, I think, is due to the way Karloff used his hands.

demon monster hands

Let’s compare! Kirby’s monster…

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…Karloff’s monster. The images mirror each other.

Speaking of hands, this brings me to the final piece I’ll be including. It’s the first page of chapter three. Kirby sums up the action of the scene while deftly bringing in the Demon. That’s a pretty cool hand there. We’re in for some action!

demon hand

DC may not have held much interest for me back in the old days, but as you can see there was something good going on. I’ve remained a Marvel kid, but DC could also produce some pretty good stuff.

Hell. I’m a Marvel kid whose favorite character is Batman.

Go figure.

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