Tag Archives: Johnny Craig

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.)

Crime_Suspenstories_22

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!

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.

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This Month’s Great Cover Ended An Era And Started Another

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In the mid-1950s, the US Government seemed to believe that comic books were turning America’s youth into juvenile delinquents. Rep. Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn) led the charge in Congress to stop the evil influence of comic books on America’s future. Funny. I thought the 1950s was when America was great. Huh.

Well, anyway.

There was one company in particular that really drew the attention of America’s decency standards keepers: EC Comics. In those days, EC was the comic book publisher that was most consistent in publishing quality comic books. The stories were intriguing and challenging and the artwork was some of the best in the industry, as this month’s cover by Johnny Craig demonstrates.

The cover is from issue number 22 of Crime Suspenstories (May, 1954) and it became the centerpiece of the US House Committee hearings on comic books, led by the worried Rep. Kefauver. The Congressman grilled then owner of EC, William “Bill” Gaines, on whether or not he considered a cover depicting a murdered woman with a man holding her severed head to be in good taste. Gaines thought it was for a horror comic book not necessarily meant for kids.

Gaines pointed out that the cover didn’t show the viscera of the severed neck nor of the body laying on the floor. However, I’ve read somewhere that Craig had originally drawn the cover depicting where the neck had been cut. It was redrawn to tone it down.

Well, the hearings led to the industry forming the Comics Code Authority in 1954. This body was to set down rules as to what could and could not be depicted in comic books. The Comics Code Authority remained active until the early 2000s, but their power had been eroding for years before then.

Soon after the Comics Code came into being, Bill Gaines shut down all of his comic book titles. Ending an era. He turned his attention to a magazine that had started as a comic book. Magazines weren’t subject to the Code, so he could do what he liked with them. And he liked satire. The magazine was Mad. And so began another era.

Phew, so much for the history. Now let’s look at that controversial cover…

First there is the general layout of an EC cover. There’s the banner title with a solid color for the background. The art is framed in a square taking up about two thirds of the cover. Marvel Comics would adopt this layout for a time in the 1970s.

The artwork itself is very well drawn by Craig. Craig’s execution is terrific. Without having it detailed for us, the positioning of the body on the floor, the look on the victim’s face, and the blood-spattered (done in black) axe tells the viewer that a man has just loped off a woman’s head. The under lighting on the severed head and the murderer’s arm add to the drama.

But, Craig has also done two things that are quite subtle. First is the positioning of the axe. I may be reading something into this that isn’t there, having a dirty mind as I do, but there’s a certain phallicness to it, don’t you think? Of course it might just be, that given the design and layout constraints, that was the best way for Johnny Craig to show the man had a blood-soaked axe.

The second subtle touch is the murderer’s posture. The man is not drawn hunched forward in a position that would indicate shame. No, this man is standing upright. His shoulders held back, his chest pumped out. This pose looks to me as though he’s happy – proud! – of what he’s done.

These subtle touches along with the fabulous execution make this a great cover. It may have ended EC Comics, but it gave us Mad Magazine. Not a terrible trade-off.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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