Tag Archives: werewolf by night.

October’s Great Cover is a Howler

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I mean it’s a howler in the sense that it is October, the month of Halloween, and I chose a comic book cover with a werewolf on it. And werewolves howl, so…

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Marvel titles was Werewolf By Night. I was and still am into Universal Studios’ classic monster movies: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man (1941). And the Werewolf By Night series went hand in hand with those movies. I especially liked the first few issues with the incomparable Mike Ploog’s artwork. However, my favorite single issue is still Werewolf By Night #9, which was wonderfully draw by Tom Sutton. I wrote about that issue a long time ago.

As you have probably noticed, this month’s great cover isn’t an issue of Werewolf By Night. I did one of those covers as my first great cover of the month blog. No, this one is an issue of Moon Knight (#29 – March, 1983). It’s drawn by one of comic books’ most intriguing artists: Bill Sienkiewicz.

I first saw Sienkiewicz’s work in this Moon Knight series. I thought he was good, if a bit of a Neal Adams look-a-like. But, soon, much like Barry Winsdor-Smith, John Romita Jr., and Mike Mignola, Sienkiewicz stopped trying to draw in the fashion of most comic book artists and allowed his own style to emerge. This cover is from the beginning of that emergence.

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More man-like version.

There was also a change in how the Werewolf was depicted. The decision was made to move away from the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man look to a more wolf-like monster. It would still walk upright like a man, but its face would be that of a wolf. More like Marvel’s character Man-Wolf.

MoonKnight-29-detail copy

More wolf-like version.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a bit torn by that change. I really like the early version, but this version is more horrifying and much more monstrous. Especially the way Sienkiewicz draws the creature on this cover and in the book.

There are five elements to this cover illustration: The eyes, the fangs, the blood, the crescent blade, and black. The use of black is brilliant. It can’t help but create a mood of horror and dread. This creature isn’t human. It can’t be reasoned with. The earlier version of the Werewolf could, at times, look almost cuddly. This version is poised to bite your face off.

This cover certainly caught collectors’ eyes back in 1983. It’s still eye-catching now.

It’s such a great cover.

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Why I Love This Cover…

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This is the first installment of a series in which I will examine some of my favorite comic book covers and explain why they are awesome works of pop art. Obviously, covers were vitally important to grab the attention (and money) of the potential reader. An eye-catching cover could get a casual reader to pick it up or get an avid collector to maybe buy a new title. A lackluster series could have a dynamite cover, giving it a chance to be purchased. A bit of the bait and switch, but what can ya do?

In the 1970s, the go-to artist for dynamic, eye-popping covers was the fantastic Gil Kane. Kane started working in the comic book industry in the early 1940s at the tender age of 16 and made himself into one of the all time greatest artists in the history of comic books. If you bought a Marvel comic book in the ’70s, chances are very good the cover art was by Gil Kane.

I was told by a Marvel editor once that comic book art is all about melodrama. Kane was the master of melodrama. His command of dynamic human anatomy was unparalleled. And, from what I’ve been told, he drew very quickly, which was a must in those days if an artist was to make a living.

So, let’s look at the cover of Werewolf By Night #26 (February 1975). The book features one of the werewolf’s arch foes, Hangman. The cover shows our hero cornered by Hangman and the tension is absolutely palpable, as we can see the werewolf is prepared to pounce. As you know, a cornered animal is a very dangerous animal.

However, we can see by Hangman’s pose, standing erect with his shoulders back and arms by his sides, that he is confident in his ability to meet and defeat the werewolf’s pending attack. His pose also gives us a good look at his weapons: The hangman’s noose and a scythe. Although, why a hangman would need a scythe, I have no idea. Looks cool, though.

The choice of seeing the werewolf from between the villain’s legs uses the classic triangular composition. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the werewolf’s face and his ever-present snarl. On virtually every cover of this series, the werewolf is depicted with his mouth open, bearing his teeth. Well, he is a werewolf.

Note that the werewolf’s eyes are clearly directed to his opponent’s face. Kane was a bit more careful on this cover than he was when he drew the cover of Conan The Barbarian #43. He used essentially same composition as on Werewolf By Night #26, however instead of looking into the face of the threatening creature, Conan appears to be looking a bit… lower. (Of course, Kane could always blame the inker.)

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“Yes, yes. It’s very impressive, but my eyes are up here, pal!”

Keep an out eye for more awesome covers. I’ll let you know right now, we will see Gil Kane again.

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Tom Sutton & Werewolf By Night

Artist unknown.

Werewolf By Night #9 Artist unknown

When kicking around ideas for this blog with the fellas at the Nostalgia Zone, I mentioned I was considering writing about how much I didn’t like Jack Kirby’s comic book illustrations. Yeah, yeah, he’s the King. He practically invented the art form. He certainly made it possible for Marvel Comics to become the dominant (and best) comic book publisher in the world. His influence on comic book art is still being felt today. But, I just didn’t like his work.

You will note that I said I didn’t like it. Past tense. Sometime in my art school years (much farther in the distant past than I care to admit), I found something in his art that I hadn’t when I was younger. Yes, there were the squared fingers, the funky anatomy, the three styles of women’s faces (the heroine, the old lady, and the fat gal) that he always drew. But there was melodrama, composition, dynamic action, and those cool large black dots! His weird characters of the 70s: Kamandi, the Demon, and OMAC were way out there. And his monsters were awesome! I found that I suddenly quite liked his work.

The Demon #1 - Cool cover by Jack Kirby, but this isn't about the King.

The Demon #1 – Cool cover by Jack Kirby, but this isn’t about the King.

I guess it’s good to be the King.

But the boss said that Kirby has been written about to death. He suggested writing something about a lesser known artist. OK. How about…

Tom Sutton (1937 – 2002) had worked for Charlton and Marvel, as well as doing work for various horror magazines. He illustrated mostly horror genre stories starting in the 1960s on up to the 1990s. I must admit I don’t know a great deal about his body of work, but there are two comic books that stand out as among my most favored from my early days of collecting.

In 1973, for a two issue run, Sutton both penciled and inked Marvel’s ‘Werewolf By Night’. Since Sutton worked mainly in the macabre of comic bookdom, he was a rather nice fit with the Werewolf title. For the first seven issues of ‘Werewolf By Night’ the fantastic Mike Ploog was the penciler. Then, starting with issue number 8 and going through number 12, a series of guest artists took the helm, before Ploog returned for issue number 13.

Sutton was brought in to do issues 9 and 10.

As I said, Ploog was a fantastic artist, with his work heavily influenced by the great Will Eisner. Ploog’s werewolf was cool, if maybe a little bit cuddly. Sutton’s werewolf was much more sinister looking. Darker. More animalistic. I was far more frightened by Sutton’s werewolf than by Ploog’s or Gil Kane’s or Werner Roth’s or the dreadfully dull Don Perlin’s.

Here is a side by side comparison of Ploog’s and Sutton’s werewolves. Ploog’s shows more discipline is his drawing and would make a terrific poster. Sutton’s is wilder and is much more menacing.

werewolf comparison

Is it me or does the werewolf’s left leg look as though it’s backward in Ploog’s drawing?

I also find Sutton’s work to be more cinematic in his approach. Here are a few examples:

The opening page of number 9 is outstanding. It shows the werewolf running through a rainy night in Los Angeles. He runs over rooftops, through back alleys, then into traffic and, ultimately, gets seen full flash in the headlights of oncoming cars. I just love it!

WBN 9 Page 1

As the opening pages of the first part of this two issue story unfold, we see that the werewolf is being pursued. He’s followed by a ragman who can somehow track the werewolf from under the streets, through the sewers of LA. I’m not sure how that is accomplished, but no matter. It is in those pages that Sutton creates a great feeling of impending doom as one frame in particular demonstrates. Look at that shot drawn from a low angle focusing on the ragman surrounded by his ominous shadow. So good!

WBN 9 Page 2

Later in number 9 (page 14), we find a surprisingly nonchalant Jack Russell alone in his room. I would expect him to be a bit more on edge seeing as how he should expect to be changing into the werewolf any minute now. Still.

The muted colors are also effective if poorly printed.

The muted colors are also effective if poorly printed.

Outside we see more ragmen emerging from the sewers and stealthily approaching Jack’s house. I really like the way Sutton drew those frames. The house is done in simple shapes, while the ragmen appear to float across the ground. And the one ragman who looks back over his shoulder is quite chilling.

The werewolf is captured through the use of a high frequency whistle that causes severe pain in the creature. The werewolf quickly learns he must do the bidding of Sarnak, the masked leader of the ragmen. On the last page of issue 9, we can see just how painful the whistle is (see the detail below).

It's difficult to see in the image,but the werewolf's eyes were drawn as diagonal lines.

It’s difficult to see in the image, but the werewolf’s eyes were drawn as diagonal lines.

Issue 10 has a very good cover by Sutton, however I think the werewolf is in danger of being crushed by the falling blocks. They look awfully heavy. I can’t find out who illustrated the cover for number 9 (see above). It could have been Sutton, but I don’t think so.

Werewolf By Night #10

Werewolf By Night #10

From issue 10 I’ll include two examples of Sutton’s work from the end of the story. (Spoilers!) First we can see the twisted and gnarled faces of the ragmen, who were also under the control of Sarnak, as they begin to regain their senses. They realize they had been manipulated by Sarnak and determine they will make him pay.

WBN 10 Page 27

Sutton draws the ragmen converging on the villain, swirling around him, and, on the final page, Sarnak is unmasked and revealed to be just another surface dweller, clean and soft. Not one of them.

WBN 10 Page 28

Altogether, this was a fine two part story that showed Tom Sutton would have been an excellent choice as the regular artist for the series, but, after two more issues (11 & 12) brilliantly drawn by Gil Kane, Mike Ploog returned to draw three more, then the drawing was turned over to the very ordinary Don Perlin and the artwork was all downhill from there.

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