Kirby Is The King For A Reason

I can’t believe that when I was a kid I didn’t like Jack Kirby’s work. I just didn’t like the squared-off fingers, the poorly defined knuckles, the overly simplified anatomy. It all bothered me as a kid. And, from what I have heard elsewhere, other professional comic book illustrators that followed Kirby also didn’t like his work when they were kids. (Except for Walt Simonson. He liked Kirby from a very young age.) It took my going to art school for me to begin to appreciate the greatness of the King.

And I love it now! Especially the work he produced from the mid-60s on through the late 70s. His drawing in the first several issues of the Fantastic Four was crude, but by 1965 he began to really cook. His artwork just popped right off the page. Everything became pure WOW! His characters became more dynamic. His cityscapes and sci-fi machinery became more intricate. His action became grander. And his depictions of energy, outer space, and the Negative Zone began to krackle.

Captain America #106 (October 1968)

As the title says, he was the king for a reason.

Which brings me to this month’s great cover, Marvel Comics’ Daredevil #43 (August 1968) drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott. This cover could be a companion piece to another great Kirby cover I profiled way back in November, 2017. (Ahhh, the before times. Remember them?). Both feature Marvel’s star-spangled Avenger. Both make terrific use of the entire page. Both were produced at roughly the same time.

This cover also places Captain America front and center. As on Captain America #106 (that other great Kirby cover), Kirby deftly manages to turn Cap’s upper body toward the “camera”, so we get a clear view of America’s super-soldier. His fist pops off the page. Why, I almost feel I have to duck out of the way to avoid getting clobbered.

The characters feel a little more stationary on this cover, but it still demonstrates Jack Kirby’s awesomeness. It’s a great cover.

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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 Sub-Mariner Great Cover

Sub-Mariner #29 (September, 1970)

This is the fourth great cover I’ve featured from Marvel ComicsSub-Mariner series. That’s a little weird, but I saw this cover and thought I’d give a little more love (I’ve given some to this artist before) to Sal Buscema.

Sal’s brother John gets most of the attention and it would be difficult to argue against that. John is one of the giants of comic book art. He’s up there with Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, and the king Jack Kirby. Those were more or less contemporaries of John’s, but his work stacks up nicely with the following generation of artists including George Perez, Walt Simonson, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and John Byrne.

Ugh! There I go! Here I’m trying to cast a light of Sal Buscema’s work and I get into praising John. Sorry, Sal.

Sal’s work may not have had the same gracefulness as John’s (see that first Silver Surfer series and his first run on The Avengers, especially #57 which introduced the Vision), but it did have similar power. Sal had a strong sense of the melodramatic, which is what comic books are all about.

I have friends who have knocked Sal as being a little generic, but I think he definitely had a style. A look of his own. A style, incidentally, he completely changed in his later career when drawing The Spectacular Spider-Man. It shocked me to see he was the artist drawing those books. That drastic style change was something John never did. John’s work remained very good throughout his career with Marvel, but it felt a little stale in his later years.

This cover is from when Sal was drawing Prince Namor (yep, John was the first artist on the series). He was drawing both the covers and the stories within at the time. I’m not sure who inked the cover. The Grand Comics Database (where I get most my comic book information) isn’t sure if it was Frank Giacoia or Joe Giella.

What makes this cover great in my eyes is mostly due to the pose of Hercules and Namor in battle. Hercules seems like he should have the upper hand, but that pesky Huntsman in the background is zapping him with a magic wand or taser or something that shoots electricity. There’s a strong sense of motion in the pose. And I like the way the two figures dominate the page.

I also like how Hercules’ right leg is rendered. It’s solidly supporting the weight of our heroes (they are both heroes) doing battle with each other.. And I always dug how Sal drew fists. I love that exaggerated, right angle of the thumb rising from the wrist. And Sal Buscema was great at drawing maniacally crazy facial expressions. The Huntsman’s face is small in the drawing, but Sal and the inker are able to show some craziness with a raised eyebrow and a smile.

The cover also pops! I mean the action leaps off the page. It catches the eye. This pop is due to the pose of the characters and the yellow zap surrounded by that flat black background. This cover would make me stop and look more closely at it if I had seen it on the newsstand in 1970.

It’s a fun cover, which I think is great.

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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.

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!

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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?

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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.

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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 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.

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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?

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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.

Another Great Cover By Sal Buscema

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Back in November of last year (oh, how long ago that feels now), I declared a cover of The Spectacular Spider-Man (#203 – August, 1993) by Sal Buscema to be great. Part of my remarks on the cover was how much of a departure from the style for which Sal was so well-known it was. I was surprised to learn Sal Buscema had drawn it.

The style from which he had departed was clean and straight forward. Basic, perhaps. He didn’t quite have the depth and flare of his legendary brother John, but Sal was a capable storyteller. He was probably pretty fast, too. Meeting deadlines is one of the biggest assets an artist can possess.

This month’s great cover is another by Sal Buscema. This one is from his tried and true days. It’s #37 of Sub-Mariner (May, 1971). The cover uses a split screen effect with Prince Namor’s ever grim visage centered to show how our hero is being pressed to make a hard choice. Does he save Lady Dorma, the love of his life, or does he battle his greatest foe, Attuma, to save his people?

Well, the needs of the many does tend to outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

Hmm. Now that I mention it. There does seem to be something Star Trek-ish about this cover, and it’s not just the pointy ears. The coloring, costuming, and poses of the characters remind me of that 1960’s TV sci-fi classic series. I think the two, the cover and the TV series, have decidedly similar qualities. And there are the pointy ears.

Sal drew and inked this cover. It’s clean and clear in its message. It must have surely caught the eye when spotted on the magazine rack.

You can see some of his brother’s influence in the way the characters are drawn, Attuma especially. I mean, just look at that foot! It is as if Sal had asked his brother to draw it for him. Feet can be very difficult to draw, but I’m certain the younger Buscema was capable of drawing his own feet.

The coloring of the cover, I don’t know who did it, lifts Sal’s drawing and inks to an even more dramatic level. Something so simple as casting half of Namor’s face in that cold blue shadow, I think, gives a strong hint to what the hard choice he will eventually make in the story.

This cover was one of my favorites when I was a young collector in the 1970’s, so perhaps my thinking it great is at least in part do to nostalgia. Well, maybe. But I still think it’s great.

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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.

A Quick Great Cover By John Buscema

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Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four #112 (July, 1971). The Hulk versus The Thing. Drawn by the great John Buscema and inked by Frank Giacoia.

‘Nuff said!

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.

.

Well, OK, I suppose I should say some more.

John Buscema is hard to beat. He helped advance the look of comic book art by combining the dynamic excitement of Jack Kirby with a stronger grasp of anatomy. His storytelling skills were top notch. And there was also a gracefulness to his characters, as his nuanced work on Silver Surfer and in his introduction of the Vision in The Avengers #57 (October, 1968).

But he was also an artist of action and could create excellent tension. You can see that in this month’s great cover. Buscema has done a number of covers that are variations of what we see here. I’ve written about a couple of them already (here and here) and I can think of at least one more that will be covered in the future.

I’m sure this was a quick cover for him to draw, but that doesn’t take away from its greatness.

An Update on Nostalgia Zone

Nostalgia Zone is still here. We are not open for in store shopping, but we are still taking orders online and are trying to get them turned around as quickly as possible. New inventory is being entered into our online catalog (www.nostalgiazone.com) We appreciate our online customers’ patience as we try to fulfill orders in a timely fashion.

We also appreciate and our hearts are warmed by all those who have reached out to us to make sure we are OK. We are.

We are trying to work out how to reopen the store to our customers in a way that will be safe during the pandemic. Hopefully, there will be news on that front soon.

Thanks to all our customers for your continued support. We love you guys! You’re the best!

Stay safe!

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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.

It’s a Golden/Adams Great Cover

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Neal Adams is involved in this great cover as the inker, but it’s penciller Michael Golden’s unique style that takes center stage on The Micronauts #7 (July, 1979). Golden was the exact right artist for the Micronauts, a toy line turned into a comic book series. As I recall, this series hit the newsstands at about the same time as Rom: Spaceknight, another comic book based on a new toy.

Toys turned into comic books? An interesting cross promotional idea. Sure, there had been toys made of comic book characters since almost as long as there were comic books. But, as I understand it, Rom’s and the Micronauts’ toys and comic books were pretty much simultaneous in their releases.

The general storyline of the Micronauts closely parallels the Star Wars story of rebels striking against a, in this case, micro-galactic empire with Baron Karza as the evil emperor. In fact, his resemblance to Darth Vader would seem to be more than a mere coincidence. Incidentally, I think the corner icon image of Karza is also pretty damn great.

The cover features our heroes in the macroverse (where we live) encountering one of Marvel’s most interesting force of nature characters the Man-Thing. But they have the added threat of a venomous swamp snake. Quite a quandary.

What I think makes this a great cover is the Man-Thing. His look is menacing. His body looks as though in just seeped up from the swamp floor, which isn’t far off. And his face is terrifically done. Those red eyes eerily emerge from the black abyss that is the chest of the silent swamp creature. It’s great!

1197051I also always admired Michael Golden’s signature G to sign his covers. And on this one he’s incorporated an A for our buddy the science-impaired (long story, just ask him about gravity sometime), but great illustrator Neal Adams.

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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.