Thursday, December 28, 2006

Number 74

COVERING UP: Classic Golden Age Comics Covers: Covers that work for me!

Covers are designed for one thing: to sell books and magazines. The old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover" is very true, but a good cover can sell a mediocre comic book better than a mediocre cover can sell a good comic.

Trying to make themselves seen during the Golden Age of comics must've seemed impossible during the times when there were over 400 titles on the racks. But in culling through pictures of thousands of comics over the years, these are some of the covers that would have gotten my attention and drawn me like a magnet.

First up, Weird Tales Of The Future, dated March-April, 1953. Our old friend Bernard Baily, who drew many a great cover for many a crappy comic, is at his genius best here. Exploding planet! People in space, sucked along by reptilian aliens with tentacles! An alien sport shirt with the skull-and-crossbones of a pirate! Wow. I don't care what else is in this book. Here's my dime.

Second is a startlingly silly horror comics cover, Web Of Evil, dated September, 1953. Some weird giant spook is rising up from the grave, while a gangster tries to mow him down with a machine gun. The cover looks to be done by Jack Cole, or someone appropriating his style. I also like the titles of stories carved into the tombstones. Here, take my money. I've just gotta have this book.

Chamber Of Chills #19, a Harvey horror comic, is cover dated September, 1953. It's the same date as the aforementioned Web Of Evil, so they were on the stands at the same time. It's also an all time classic horror comics cover by Harvey's best cover artist and art director, Lee Elias. What is the story on the girl with the gorgeous headlights and corpse face, being offered a drink held by a skeletal hand? I want to study it further. Ka-ching, another 10¢ of my allowance goes into the cash register. I'll take this one home.

Nineteen fifty-three must've been one helluva year for comics. Horror comics were at their wildest and wooliest during '53, just a year before Dr. Fredric Wertham's bombshell book, Seduction Of The Innocent came out and caused such an uproar. Pity. I would like to have seen what would have happened had no outcry appeared. Would comics have gotten more gruesome, or morphed into something else altogether? Another fad? We'll never know.

My personal favorite of this gang of four is Amazing Adventures #4. It's a couple of years older than the others, dated July-August 1951. Of the four, it's the only one with a painted cover. And what a cover. It's drawn by Allen Anderson, who did several covers for Ziff-Davis during their short stay in the comic book jungle. A robot. A kissing robot, yet. A blonde babe. A little green drooling guy on a sky sled. A mystery: just who are the "Love Robots"? And your wife says your lovemaking is mechanical! Another hard-earned dime goes down for this comic book. A must-have, double bagger.

All of these comics have something in common: run-of-the-mill they aren't, and if you can't judge a book by its cover, then you can at least judge the cover.

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