Ernest Nordli

The first Thursday of each month I write about what I think is a great comic book cover. This month I’m going to do it a little differently. I’m going to look at three great covers by one artist: Ernest Nordli.

Ernest Nordli (1912-1968)

There isn’t much information on the internets about this artist, except what I was able to find on Wikipedia. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1912. He studied art at Santa Barbara School of the Arts and he worked for Disney and animator Chuck Jones. Some of his credits include Dumbo, Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, and One Hundred And One Dalmatians for Disney; and Broom-Stick Bunny and Rocket-bye Baby for Jones.

In the 1950s, Nordli worked for Dell Comics painting covers for issues of The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger. (I have seen Red Ryder Comics listed as having some of his covers, but I’m not sure. I can find only one source crediting one of those covers to him, but I don’t think he did it. The style doesn’t seem right.) The covers are terrific examples of illustration and design. I’ve chosen three of his covers that show what a fantastic illustrator he was.

First up is an issue of The Cisco Kid (#4, July-August 1951). There’s a great sense of movement in this illustration. We can see how much the hero enjoys fighting the bad guys in that expressive face. I love Nordli’s command of clothing, which is not easy to draw. Nor are hands, but the hands in his illustrations are exceptionally good.

I have previously declared the cover of The Cisco Kid issue #3 great in this blog series, but my sources did not know who the artist was. Judging by the similarities of the two covers, I believe #3 was also painted by Nordli. Click here for that previous blog.

Next up is a cover of The Lone Ranger (#39, September 1951) and it is a very intense action cover. Tonto appears to have been wounded (or worse yet killed!) and the Lone Ranger is in a desperate gunfight. The Lone Ranger and his companion are pinned down in the wilderness, will they survive?

The perspective drawing of the hero is expertly done. And the simplicity of the rendering of the rocks is awesome. It’s easy to look past the background, but note how Nordli does just enough to get the point across. Good stuff!

And, finally, I give you The Lone Ranger #41 (November 1951). Obviously, Tonto survived the cover of issue #39, but he and the Lone Ranger are once again in a desperate situation. They are scaling a rather steep rock face while avoiding being hit by falling debris.

The cover has all the same great elements as the previous two. There’s the attention to facial expressions and how clothes fold and move over a body. And those hands. Oh! The hands! They’re incredible. Nordli uses all these elements plus the pose and the lighting to make it really look as though our heroes are valiantly clinging to that cliff.

Three great covers!

Ernest Nordli died young at the age of 55 in 1968. It’s been speculated that his death may have been a suicide.

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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.

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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.

Another Month, Another Great Cover

One of my favorite parts of my job entering comic books into Nostalgia Zone‘s online catalog is getting to check out some pretty cool comic book covers. I get to see books that I might not have sought out, because they aren’t part of what I’m interested in in comic books. I was never a fan of Archie comics. The Harvey titles never did anything for me. I’m just not into funny comic books. I’m a Marvel Comics kid and I like superheroes.

I have a running list of great covers from our catalog, so I have plenty of material for this monthly series. And this time? Dude! It’s a Dell.

Dell Comics didn’t do much for me as a comic book collector either. They did some superhero stuff in their wide range of genres, but those superheroes were…kinda lame. Dell did many movie and television show adaptations, along with science fiction and ghost stories, Westerns and war stories. But they mostly did the funny stuff. They believed in the comic part of comic books.

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This month’s great cover (see above) comes from Dell Comics‘ Four Color series. Each month, in the Four Color series would be a different featured character or genre even. Dell would rotate these characters and genres, so one month you’d get a Zane Grey Western, the next month would be an Andy Panda story, then there would be Donald Duck, and the month after that would be Bugs Bunny. The characters and genres would rotate, so a few months later readers would get a new book with Donald Duck or Zane Grey, etc.

From comic books’ Golden Age (1938 – 1955), I present Dell Four Color #200 (October 1948) featuring Bugs Bunny, Super Sleuth. The artist was Ralph Heimdahl and his work is terrific. These old school comic book illustrators really were masters at inking. Look at the weight variation of Heimdahl’s line work. Very expressive and disciplined.

I like Bugs‘ pose and the look on his face. Normally, Bugs was super cool and in control, but there were times when he would be affected by fear. This cover is one of those times.

Bugs also feels as though he is in a place, a setting. There is a real feel to our hero standing on stairs and heading into a scary house. Most covers featuring cartoon characters such as Bugs are more character focused, with little or no background. This one deviates from those typical covers by giving Bugs a place to inhabit.

The composition is excellent. The rendering and dark coloring of the wall, stairs, and banisters, along with our hero’s expression and pose, give a feeling of mystery and danger. The motion lines at the bottom of the bright yellow door indicate Bugs is opening the door quickly so as to possibly catch someone in the act. Just what does he see inside that house?

It’s a great cover.

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Another great comic book cover…

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Look at it! Ain’t it beautiful?

I’m breaking away from the usual superhero covers to examine this gem from Dell Comics’ The Cisco Kid #3. This comic is dated April 1951 and is considered to be from the tail end of the Golden Age of comic books. Since it is so old, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about this book. So, I have no idea what artist is responsible for this excellent cover. (If you can identify the artist, please let me know.) However, the style does remind me of one of today’s best comic illustrators: Alex Ross.

First, I like the self aware humor of this cover. It seems to me the creator is poking fun at the idea that merely shaving his mustache makes the Cisco Kid unrecognizable. Sort of like putting on glasses is enough for Clark Kent to hide the fact that he is Superman. I hope I didn’t spoil that for you.

Next I really like that this is a painted cover and not the inked pencils with color fill that was the most common method of illustrating comic book covers. Dell and Fawcett and other early comic book producers would often use a painted cover. Most were OK, but occasionally a cover like this would come along.

I spotted it while cataloging a new batch of back issues on the Nostalgia Zone‘s online store and I was very impressed.

I especially like the hands. Hands are not the easiest bit of the human anatomy to draw. Although they’re not as difficult as feet. (There’s a phrase used by comic books artist when it comes to drawing feet. It’s called “fear of feet” and, if you look for it, you’ll see it’s fairly common. There’s a possible blog in “fear of feet’, but for another time.) This artist really gets the hands right. It seems very likely a model was used to produce this cover.

I like the expression the Cisco Kid is giving the viewer. The meaning is obvious. He’s thinking he’s awfully clever that his shaving will keep him from being caught. But, as I stated earlier, I think the artist is also poking fun at the silliness of simple disguises that always seem to work in comic books.

It’s a great old cover.

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