ISSUE #25: Gone But Not Forgotten – Part 1

Welcome back, dear CBSI peeps! I had sort of a slow week, did my best to ignore the Batman: Damned hype train, watched the Captain Marvel trailer about a thousand times (don’t judge me) and caught up on some past and present reading. As such, I went back to some old-school stuff and that got me thinking of some of the artists that we have lost over the years. It is always a shame to think of the additional work we might have gotten from those artists, but it is as important to remember them for the grand and generous contributions they gave, throughout their respective careers.

There are quite a few of these artists and it would be impossible to do them all justice in one short article and/or feature every single one of them. As such, I’d like to feature a few of my favorites that have heavily influenced the hobby in various ways. This will be done over at least two parts (possibly three) and a couple of these artists will be getting their own feature issues, eventually.

In the comments, this week, let me know which artist you miss the most and why.

 

NOTE:

I have omitted Golden Age books/artist for this article mostly because the majority of them have passed on and most Golden Age books are out of this article’s price range parameters.

Anyhow, with that out of the way, let’s have some fun, shall we. Here are this week’s covers from some of our dearly departed:

 

1. Jack “King” Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg) [b.1917 – d.1994]

Journey Into Mystery (With Thor) #125 (1952 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – February, 1966

 

To be sure, there are probably 100 covers (or more) I could choose for “The King,” but when I think of Jack, I think Thor. When I think Thor, I think of this cover and perhaps Thor #154 (another you all should check out and can be gotten cheaply). Half of the dynamic duo with Stan Lee that re-invented Marvel Comics (keep in mind it wasn’t Marvel before them), Kirby was instrumental in literally revolutionizing comics by providing life and dynamics to figural work in addition to really providing comics with the first cinematic feel through major use of splash pages and exaggerated perspective and action. When one sees a Kirby piece, it’s obvious that it’s Kirby.  

Having begun working while Marvel was still Timely Comics and co-inventing Captain America in the 1940’s, then moving on into creating monsters for Atlas in the 1950’s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would go on to create some of the most iconic Heroes, Villains and Teams ever to grace the pages of funny books in the 1960’s. From The Fantastic Four to The X-Men to The Hulk to Iron Man to Thor (and many in between), the team of Kirby and Lee would usher in the Silver Age and, simultaneously, the Marvel Age.

His influence cannot be overstated and, to this day, his legacy lives on in some of the most collected comic books of all time.  Additionally, his modern day relevance is perhaps more keenly felt than ever before with the success of the MCU. Often overshadowed by the creative prowess of Stan Lee, the self-taught Kirby was equally as instrumental in the creation of these characters we now spend ungodly sums for.  

Most of Kirby’s most iconic covers grace highly sought after key issues (many of them “blue chip” keys) and can, therefore, be out of the price range of most collectors. Luckily, there are plenty of beautiful covers to choose from in the “budget” level and this Journey into Mystery #125 is one of them. It sums up everything there is to be said about Silver Age Thor in a simple, stark and clean cover that pops. It is Kirby through-and-through. It is Thor through-and-through. It is the Silver Age through-and-through.

 

2. Steve Ditko [b.1927 – d.2018]

Strange Tales #146 (1951 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – July, 1966

 

Being one of comics’ most recent heavy losses, no conversation about the most beloved deceased artists would be a worthy one if I didn’t mention Steve Ditko. Much like Jack Kirby, above, Ditko would help to catapult Marvel into the Silver Age with his co-creation of Spiderman. Of course, the initial 38 issue-run of Spidey and its peripheral issues are largely out of financial reach of many collectors, even in low grade, but there are plenty of other Ditko covers worth paying attention to much like this Strange Tales #146. It is full of life, feeling and color and may, in fact, be a better overall composition than many of his more famous covers.

Ditko worked on horror, sci-fi and fantasy comics for Charlton and Warren Publishing companies throughout his early career and did a variety of work for both DC and Marvel from the 1960’s, onward. While his work on Spiderman overshadows most of his other work, he was one of the creators of Dr. Strange which, for some, is equally as important. Ditko’s style was, much like Jack Kirby’s, instantly recognizable in it’s clean and detailed lines which emphasized mood and feeling. These characteristics can be clearly seen in this issue of Strange Tales.

The above cover is a beautiful, inexpensive and representative example of Ditko’s style and it is attached to what is probably his second-most famous creation.     

 

3. Bernie Wrightson (Bernard Albert Wrightson) [b.1948 – d.2017]

House of Secrets #94 (1956 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 1971

 

Okay, I know I speak about Wrightson a lot (and there is more planned in future articles), but one cannot deny that when we think of DC horror, we think Wrightson. His ability to use shadow and contrast lighting to create complete composition and mood is unparalleled. Inasmuch, his cover for House of Secrets #92 is legendary and, for some collectors, peerless. This #94 is right alongside #92 in providing a similar ambiance.

I can feel the dead weight of the girl and the heft of the stance on the main figure. I feel as though I am there and I want to open the cover. After all, isn’t that the point of a great cover? The perspective on the stairwell and the light casting shadows on the wall from both the figures and the window are a masterful touch that give a splash of pop and great depth to a moment of suspense. The work is framed beautifully and the woman is rendered impeccably well with precision of line and detail.

Wrightson is a greatly missed master of the macabre and while many of his iconic issues/covers are highly coveted and highly priced, many of them from this run (as well as his run on House of Mystery) can still be snagged very cheaply, especially in mid grades. Wrightson continued his work well into the Modern Age, but his later covers seemed to lack something in their over-rendering. It is these Bronze Age covers that solidify Wrightson’s greatness.

 

4. Darwyn Cooke [b.1962 – d.2016]

Catwoman #1 (2002 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 2002

 

Darwyn Cooke is a “love-him-or-hate-him” brand of artist. Many feel that such simplicity is not the mark of talent. I would argue that it is the exact opposite. In order to create such appealing art with such precise line and simplicity is extremely difficult to do well and that talent can be seen, starkly, here with this Catwoman #1 cover.

Cooke began in comics in 1985, but quickly moved into animation and storyboarding for the large part of the next two decades. He was instrumental in the storytelling of what many regard as the best animated cartoon series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series. Coming back to comics in the early 2000’s, Cooke (along with Ed Brubaker) revamped the Catwoman character (as seen above) to what she largely remains as, to this day. This led, eventually, to DC: The New Frontier in 2004 which sought to bridge the story gap between the Golden Age and the Silver Age of DC superheroes. This allowed Cooke to explore many of the mainstay heroes in the DC catalogue.  

With that said, Cooke has become a favorite of many in that his style very much harkens back to the bygone Golden Age, a style that I happen to love and one that has been emulated by many other artists. If you like his style, as well, it may behoove you to check out a variety of his work, especially from the two aforementioned series. All can all be had for nearly nothing.  

 

5. Michael (Layne) Turner [b.1971 – d.2008]

Identity Crisis #4 (2004 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 2004

 

Here we have a largely forgotten cover from a compelling artist whom we lost rather young. Perhaps best known as the President of Aspen Comics and for his Fathom, Witchblade and Soulfire work, Turner was very much a modern “sexy girl” cover master. His depictions of Supergirl are some of his best-loved covers along with mainstream DC work on Superman/Batman.

This standout Wonder Woman cover is very much an outlier, but one of his very best especially in terms of the bold use of shadow and light. His covers certainly have an over-exaggerated feel which give them a sort of anime feel, but there is an appeal to them which is undeniable. It is unfortunate that we were not given many more years of Turner’s work.

While this cover is a fairly cheap buy, some of Turner’s variants are not so inexpensive (See Wolverine #66 Color and Black and White Variants). Luckily, some of Turner’s more sought after variant art has been reused of late on Aspen’s convention exclusives which does make them more accessible and affordable for many additional fans of his work.

 

***

 

Here we are again, at the end, for another week. Please, please, sound off in the comments and when you do, don’t forget to tell me which deceased artist you miss most. Until next time, happy hunting and thanks, as always, for reading.

 

 

 

 

P.S. … A NOTE ON ARTICLE PARAMETERS:

Based on a few of comments attached to recent issues of Cover Tunes, I feel a reminder of what cover tunes is supposed to be might be in order. These articles are, first and foremost, a celebration of great art and artists. They are, secondarily, a place to admire beautiful covers. I choose covers that are non-variants (unless they were “B” covers and cover price on release day) and non-keys that have fallen out of favor or, perhaps, were never on folks’ respective radars at all.

Inasmuch, these covers can be gotten relatively cheaply and most are quite common. This is mostly so that we can appreciate the parts of this hobby that are artistically driven rather than spec driven even though many of my choices may loosely relate to the spec market. I make no claims as to the story elements contained within nor how they may or may not relate to anything specifically spec-driven. I hope you all will continue to enjoy this ride of appreciation along with me.

 

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