Thursday, January 17, 2013

Who's the Best...? The Best What?

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's "Who's the Best?" is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, "Who's the Best?" is for historical topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations such as "Who's the Best -- Thor Artist?" and "Who's the Best -- Frankenstein Monster?"  Start a conversation that is broad enough to elicit an ongoing conversation, and that even might lend itself to tangential musings.

Thanks for holding it down for us!


William Preston said...

How about, "Who's the best cover artist of the Bronze Age?" And to narrow that, I want to suggest that, for the purposes of this conversation, "best" means that artist who induced you to look into or buy a title you might not otherwise have bought. And if you can think of some specific issues, all the better.

My vote, to start things off, goes to Gil Kane. I have to work now, so I'll say more later. Anybody else say Kane? (Or maybe someone will say we've already had this conversation . . . in which case, feel free to toss in something else. Really.)


Edo Bosnar said...

The first name that popped into my head when I saw your question was Gil Kane. He certainly was a prolific cover artist for Marvel back in the 1970s, and drew arguably some of the best covers of the period.
However, your supplementary question about the artist who would induce me to pick up a title just on the strength of the cover art back then, I would have to say Neal Adams. When he was still doing a lot of covers for DC in the mid-1970s, I remember pulling a whole bunch of books off the spinner rack that I might not have otherwise. A few examples (thanks go to the GCD and the internet in general for helping me find the exact issue numbers): Justice League of America #139 (o.k., I probably would have got that anyway because I liked JLA, but damn, that's a nice cover), Superman Family #182, World's Finest #244, Action Comics #485...

Anonymous said...

I think you’re leaning on an open door there, Bill. With Marvel using him almost exclusively for covers and his art being so wonderful, he is inherently going to be the one. There are some great Colan covers on Dracula, but there are more great Kane ones. Likewise Avengers, FF, Conan, Spidey, Cap, Iron Fist, Shang Chi, John Carter, Subby, Defenders, DD, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel and everything else I can think of. Even Dead of Night and all those monster/ghost/chiller mags had great covers courtesy of him.

Then you come to the all time classic covers: GS Xmen 1 (and 2 for my money). Xmen 94 & 95, Avengers 144, Premiere #1, the Xmen reprint years, Creatures on the Loose #33. Those trademark ‘burst-throughs’ (is it Avengers 127, somewhere round there?). And the Beast Am Adv’s. Some of those Jungle Action covers are among my favourites too. His dynamic style really suited those T’challa-fighting-a-massive-beast covers. I mean, it just goes on & on.

The Invaders must get some sort of award for the most consistent & biggest disappointment: Kane outside, Robbins inside. That’s a long drop.

So, for Marvel at least, he owns the Bronze Age cover art. I’d be interested to hear a DC fan challenge this with some DC classics. Maybe the Adams GL’s ? or Batman?


Anonymous said...

And while I was typing, someone did. Hi Edo.

Doug said...

There's a nice covers post (featuring Kane) over at Silver Age Comics right now. Check it out!


david_b said...

I typically never cared for Marvel Kane covers. I'd always look at them and wish for either Big John or Sal.. If I had to look at Kane's art, I'd prefer interior art (like on Spiderman).

Personally for Marvel covers, I'd go with the Buscema brothers, on par with Romita on any Spidey covers. Big John on Avengers and FF; Sal on CA&F, Avengers, Defenders.

Bronze DC..? Dillin or Adams. And for Titans or Batman family, pray there was no Heck inside.

Edo Bosnar said...

Richard, since I was and still am much more of a Marvel zuvembie, my point about Adams is that his covers could get me to at least flip through a DC book, which I might otherwise not do. Otherwise, like I said, I think Kane is one of the best cover artists of the Bronze Age in general (and Adams is right up there as well).
Doug, interesting thing about those Silver Age covers on that link you provided is that I really don't like them as much as his Marvel covers. Generally I prefer Kane's art from the 1970s and later (both covers and interiors) to his earlier work at DC.

Doug said...

I actually prefer Kane's DC work to his more wiry Marvel work, which got "wirier" as his career progressed. I tend to like my super-dudes (and -dudettes) with a little mass to them, as the aforementioned brothers Buscema might draw them.

This is not to say that I dislike Kane, but that I prefer other artistic styles.

Nick Cardy did some great DC covers, too.


david_b said...

Doug, glad you mentioned Cardy, just read he earned two Purple Hearts in WWII, so he's even more appreciated in my book.

His Aquaman/Batman/Titans covers/interiors were the pinnacle of DC Silver Age BEAUTY..!!

humanbelly said...

I sort of gave myself a blind test. "What's a cover I that I distinctly remember from a book that I've utterly forgotten?", I asked myself. I had to look it up on GCD myself, to match the image to the number-- but it was most definitely Werewolf by Night #26. A terrific variation on the "gunslinger" shot. Aaaaaaand it was a Kane/Janson cover-- who knew? Kane isn't my favorite, favorite artist-- but if the criterion is "who draws a cover that gets you to pick up a book", well heck, I'm beholden to go with him, eh?

And this does tend to overlook artists who were the primary cover artists for their own titles (Herb Trimpe, for example-- or Bob Layton's covers on his IRON MAN run) but not associated w/ doing covers anywhere else. A tricky subject. I mean, really, I think John Byrne may have been one of the best at getting you to pick up an issue. . .but he may not be totally bronze-age. Let me give him a shout-out, regardless.


Doug said...

This is ever-so-slightly tangential:

I am having a hard time recalling a cover that made me buy a book that I did not usually buy. I was really pretty much tunnel-vision in my childhood purchasing.

Anyone else afflicted with that condition?


Karen said...

I pretty much always flipped through a book, so if the interior art was not up to my standards, I'd put it back. Unless it was a book I regularly bought. So in that case, I'd suffer. Like when George Perez did an Avengers cover and Don heck drew the inside...oh the pain, Will, the pain!!

Bruce said...

Hard to argue with any of the names mentioned here. One of my personal favorite cover artists was Joe Kubert, who did almost all the covers on DC's war comics during the Bronze Age.

Also, Jack Kirby did a lot of covers during his second stint at Marvel. Even if his books were hit-or-miss (due to the writing), you could count on King Kirby to produce some electric cover art.

Count young Bruce as a kid who was often suckered in by a good cover. One thing I miss about the Bronze Age is that back then, the covers almost always reflected the story inside. A good cover would make you say, "I want to see how this story plays out!" But too many of today's covers are just interchangeable pin-up art. They may be pretty pictures, but they don't sell you on the story.

William said...

I'll start by saying I really miss the old style comic covers, they used to be so dynamic and colorful, and today they just plain suck most of the time. They all pretty much look like the same artist drew them, and the colors are always dark and muted. (And they wonder why comics don't capture anyone's attention anymore). Now, I can't say who was the BEST Bronze Age cover artist, because that is largely a matter of personal taste, but in my own opinion I thought that Jack Kirby did some great covers in the Bronze Age, on titles like The Avengers and Captain America, etc. His stuff always seemed to catch my eye and stand out on the spinner racks.

And even though he's not really known for being a "cover artist" John Byrne did some really nice covers in the Bronze Age as well. His cover for PPTSSM #58 is one of my all-time favorites. Byrne is one of those artists who's dynamic clean style always catches my attention. In fact, I have some books that I bought years ago that I didn't even realize at the time that he did the cover art for, and it turns out that was one of the major factors that made me pick up the book in first place.

Also, Frank MIller did some very memorable covers on Daredevil while he was on that book. He had a very cool graphic style that really stood apart from most artists of the time.

Other artists that have gotten me to notice (and buy) a comic that I might other wise not have are, John Romita (Sr. and Jr.), Michael Golden, Art Adams, Dave Cockrum, and George Perez, just to name a few.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm glad Karen brought up Perez - he did many fantastic covers for both Marvel and DC - and not just on the titles he was assigned to. At DC specifically, he drew some outstanding covers for Green Lantern, DC Comics Presents and even the Legion of Super-heroes.
Frank Miller was also quite a prolific cover artist as well; besides his Daredevil covers, he drew some really attractive covers for pretty much every Marvel title at one point or another. Here's a link to just a sampling:

humanbelly said...

Doug, you make a good point. For the most part, I would buy the titles I'd committed myself to regardless of the quality of the cover art. And it was pretty hard to pry me back off of a title even when the interior art was bad. . . although it would eventually happen.

But an appealing cover could still get me to pick an unknown book up sometimes. Flash #214 (100 page giant), the 1st issue of the Justice League re-boot (said cover having become an icon of its own) were ones I remember buying that way, although I generally put the book back in the rack.

Boy, and Bruce, let me echo your lament over the long-time demise of contextually relevant covers. Sadly, it doesn't look we'll ever see them come back at Marvel, at least. I've just finished reading MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY (one of the most depressing books I've read in a long, long time, I must confess), and covers that appeal to long-time fans were a calculated casualty many years ago of the whims of the shifting and un-involved corporate heads. I don't think we'll see them coming back before the industry implodes.

(a trifle gloomy today)

Karen said...

Covers nowadays are interchageable. They are pin-ups. They usually have nothing to do with the story. When I was regularly buying comics, I could always remember if I had bought an issue by the cover, because it was reflective of the story inside. Now though, it's just a pose every month.

Karen said...

Sorry Bruce, I didn't see your post before I posted -I sort of just said everything you said! But hey, at least we agree!

Garett said...

Dick Giordano could make a cover appealing just with his inks. Over Buckler, Dillin, Andru, and of course Adams, his inks gave a polish that made me pick it up and hope for more like that inside. He could handle Neal Adams pencils, but could also make a weak artist look better, and his own pencilled/inked covers were also good.

Like Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. I typed it in to show issue #1 with Giordano's cover, and look whose blog comes up:
It's at the end of Rip's article.

Anonymous said...

I agree about Gil Kane...also Byrne, Perez, Mike Grell, Garcia-Lopez at DC. I did actually succumb to the "impulse buy" every now and then; the only one I remember clearly is Doc Strange #32 (Dec 1978). I didn't normally buy that comic, but I thought the cover (by Keith Pollard) looked really cool, so I bought it.

Mike W.

dbutler16 said...

I was thinking of Nick Cardy (who also did some good Superman covers) as well as Neal Adams (always disappointing to me when he did the cover but not the interior art).
Yes, George Perez had some spectacular covers as well.
Cockrum's X-Men covers wre pretty great.
I generally stuck to buying what I was faithful to, but sometimes I did buy something because of a cool looking cover. A few issues of the Hulk come to mind.

david_b said...

Ok, ok, buying for covers alone? I'll confess here and now.

As a young boy in a small farming town, going to a grocery store and seeing Daredevil 104..?

Never having followed him before, I became a avid DD fan on the spot for at least a few years, mostly for Natasha's outfit...

There, see..? I feel better.

Doug said...

Jim Aparo, anyone?


Steve Does Comics said...

I bought so many 1970s DC comics because of Nick Cardy's covers. The strange thing is, because I never had a comic where he drew the interiors, I was totally unaware of his existence and didn't realise that all those covers were drawn by the same man.

As mentioned already, he did some terrific Superman covers and I also loved his horror covers too.

A Jim Aparo cover was always enough to make me buy a comic.

I also have to put in a word for Tom Sutton, who did a whole bunch of brilliant covers for Charlton. For me, he was to Charlton what Cardy was to DC and Romita and Kane were to Marvel.

Bruce said...

No problem, Karen. Great minds think alike, I guess! :)

HB, what was the reason given for the switch to generic, pin-up covers? I've always assumed that it had to do with publication deadlines (and the inability of some modern artists to meet those deadlines) and the need to provide cover art to retailers when the companies solicit their upcoming books. But my assumption could be completely off-base.

And I totally agree about Tom Sutton's Charlton covers, particularly his painted covers for the Charlton horror titles.

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, for me Aparo can do no wrong, and his many covers all across the DC universe are fantastic.
Steve, I agree with you about Sutton's covers for Charlton's various titles; I would just add Joe Staton's gorgeous Charlton covers as well - many of which were painted.

Anonymous said...

Random name drop: Kevin Nowlan. He is someone of whom I have literally never seen any interior art, but he did some beautiful, really beautiful, covers for the Defenders.


humanbelly said...

@Richard: Except the knock against him and his Defenders covers were that they were an early, early, early occurrence of the "Cover-as-pinup" phenomenon. I distinctly remember being perpetucally confused about which issue I'd bought because so many of them looked the same. Man, he would have been a HUGE improvement over the interior Don Perlin pencils, though. . .

@Bruce- among the other goings-on during the huge '90's boom and then bust & bankruptcy at Marvel was the fact that NONE of the big bosses- many of whom were capable of inane office micro-managing- read comic books at all, and were rather beligerently proud of the fact. The simply wanted to suck as much fast money out of the company as they could. There was a major ongoing power struggle over whether the company was driven by the Marketing arm or the Editorial (comics) arm. . . and the marketing arm won easily, 'cause the bosses understood marketing (sort of). Thus, covers became a means to showcase the identifiable "product" (the characters themselves), as opposed to identifying what was happening in each individual comic's storyline. I'm guessing story/plot stuff was viewed as being a distraction from the central character-centric packaging. This wasn't talked about in-depth, but that's what I gleaned sort of between the lines.

It's just all so dreadful and dispiriting-- even Martin Goodman was so much better than this. . .


Karen said...

It seems like John Buscema didn't do that many covers. Certainly they grew fewer as we moved farther into the 70s.

I think the same could be same for Romita. A shame on both accounts.

Kane and Kirby seem to dominate when I let my mind wander over covers. But I really dug the ones by some of my favorite artists, like Starlin and Perez. Captain Marvel 32 is just hard to beat.Or 33 for that matter. Strange Tales 178 is another one by Starlin featuring a full figure dominating the cover.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I am late to this but let me throw in some votes for:

Gil Kane -- Especially his DC stuff on THE Superman titles, Green Lantern and Sword of the Atom, some of which is really striking. THAT's an example of a cover artist whose work I'd buy regardless of the interior content.

Jim Aparo -- Not my favorite artist; I'm not fond of his 80's work. But he did some great horror-related covers for the Spectre run in Adventure Comics and the Phantom Stranger:

Howard Chaykin -- Could do some striking work when he put his mind to it:

Jack Kirby -- I mentioned this the other day: His covers for Marvel during his 70s return are highly underrated. THAT's another case of me buying comic regardless of the interior content.

George Perez -- Do I even have to explain this?

Anthony said...

Even though it's like comparing apples and oranges I'd like to show some love for Bob Larkin and Earl Norem and the Marvel magazine covers that they did.
William I can remember buying Tomb Of Dracula magazine 3 when I had never purchased an issue of the comic.

It got me to read the rest of the series. The cover hooked me and the Colan / Palmer interior art reeled me in.

I can also remember buying Savage Sword Of Conan 23 for the Norem cover.

And you can never go wrong with Big John interior art.

William Preston said...

Before I became such a Marvel fanatic, I bought comics somewhat indiscriminately, following almost nothing until right before my "conversion." In that youthful time, covers were what pulled me in. I had several from an Adams run on Batman (the Ra's al-Ghul story) when Bruce faked his death. My first Spider-man was #103, the Kane cover from the Forbidden Land. (I didn't buy the comic again until Romita's Man-Wolf covers on 123-124.) Aparo often pulled me to buy a Batman or Detective.

david_b said...

Romita did some seriously memorable cover art for both CA&F and Spidey, but his interior CA&F were never as nice as ol' Sal.

Just saw '80s McFarlane covers.. Eww. He was good on drawing Spiderman (although I personally believe he over-stayed his tenure..), but everything else (like drawing Wolvie and other X-Men or Cap..) just looked too trendy and busy. Hard to look at now.

Kudo's to the mention of Starlin.

Geez, how can most of us forget 'the Master'..!?!

I got sucked in with Mar-Vell ish 28 with the Avengers cover. Superb cover, interior art.

Karen said...

Starlin also did some memorable covers for DC, like DC Comics Presents 27,29, and some issues of JLA. And of course Legion.

William Preston said...

Brunner made me buy Doc Strange.

Garett said...

Anthony, yes Norem on Savage Sword! What a way to get worked up to read those tales.

WardHill Terry said...

Jim Aparo got me to start buying Brave & the Bold with his drawing of a scared Batman holding a gun on a terrified Green Lantern. Jim Starlin got me to buy the Two-in-One Annual, a title I had never had any interest in. Layton, Byrne, and Miller got me to at least pick up their books and eventually to buy them. Curse me for a fool for not buying them right away! When I started collecting Kane's and Kirby's covers made all Marvels look the same to me, so I had trouble distinguishing them.
A name not mentioned yet, but deserving of praise, is Ed Hannigan. He did such dynamic, captivating work for both Marvel and DC, often incorporating the title logo, a la Eisner.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with William Preston - after seeing all the great covers Mr Kane drew during this period, in my opinion he certainly deserves the top spot, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Big John Buscema gets an honourable mention too, but he wasn't as prolific as Kane was in the Bronze Age for covers.

Garett, I totally agree with you - Earl Norem's covers alone would make me buy a magazine (I think his output was mostly in the larger format) even if the interior art/story was crap!

- Mike 'loved Buscema's Savage Sword of Conan painted covers' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

Gil Kane was darn near ubiquitous at Marvel during the 70's, and produced some awesome covers.

Jack Kirby's stint as cover artist when he returned to Marvel was most impressive.

Neal Adams could produce a compelling cover, but his work was less evident in the Bronze Age.

Berni Wrightson's horror covers were fantastic.

The painted covers by Tom Sutton for Charlton are off the chain.

But I have to give the nod to Nick Cardy. Cardy's covers are elegant, visually dynamic, and they hold up exceedingly well after all these decades. They are more than just scenes from the comics, they are true posters for what was inside.

Cardy's covers got me back into DC during the Bronze Age to no small degree.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, Starlin did indeed do some great covers for DC; in fact, every single cover he drew for DC Comics Presents (#s 26-29, 36-37) for which he also did the interior art, is fantastic. Those are otherwise some of my favorite issues of that series.

Graham said...

What I like about this memory is not as good as some of you folks', but usually before the thread has run its course, somebody recalls the issue, or cover, or story I'm thinking about in detail. I guess it's true that great minds think alike. On this topic, as I was reading down the list, I would think of several great cover artists, and I would always find that someone else liked them and listed them. That's what makes this blog so much fun to follow..all the kindred spirits that are here. :)

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