ISSUE #3: Hot Artists’ Unsung Gems

Greetings again from music city, fellow hunters! Originally, I had “promised” to do this issue of Cover Tunes on Bronze Age covers, but I wasn’t expecting to have the honor of being called up to the big leagues and writing this for the main page.

So, put simply… I lied. It happens.

If Marvel and DC can do it (“We promise Red Goblin will appear in this issue” and “No, really, Metal #6 will be coming out next week), then so can I, right? Thus, this one will not be on Bronze books, but never fear, dear longbox divers, I will keep my Bronze Age promise next week.

For those who haven’t seen these posts, yet, welcome. In this column, I take a weekly look at 5 covers that blow me away, but are not incentive variants or keys and can be had for next-to-nothing. “B” covers are allowed as long as they were cover price on release day.

Anyone who may have missed the first 2 of these articles, you can check out Issue #1 here and Issue #2 here. In those earlier posts, there is some further detail on why I write this post and my current views on modern spec. More importantly, though, some of my all-time favorite covers are on those two lists, so please, check those out if you have a sec. There are some beauties you may have missed.

This week, I had a really tough time writing this. I had about 15 covers I was really excited about and wanted to include. I managed to narrow it down and, so, this week, we look at 5 more hot artists’ killer covers that seem to have flown under the radar (EDIT: in honor of my first main page post, I included a bonus #6).

I was roaming a small show in Clarksville, TN, over the weekend, and was very surprised at what people were scooping up. SO MUCH Red Goblin and Thanos, a fair amount of Eternals changing hands and more J. Scott Campbell than I could shake a stick at… No surprises, there.

The longer I’m in this hobby, the less I will ever understand why certain books do well and others don’t, but to each their own. A healthy market is good for us all. Buy what you like.

Luckily, some books are immune to hype and, as a result of that, I was able to run away with some killer covers that I got for a song (ahem…) ! A couple of them show up, below.

Here’s what I have my eye on, this week:


1. Green Lantern #41 (vol.4 – 2011)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 2015
ARTIST: Ben Oliver


Ummm, WHAT! This cover is bonkers! The market seems to be going haywire for Oliver’s 1:25 Arisia variant of Green Lantern: Lost Army #2 (and it is a lovely cover, no doubt), but man, this Joker cover is silly-good.

In my opinion, the Lost Army #2 variant can’t hold a candle to this one. Talk about a cover that pops with that white background and all the reds. Joker looks his most maniacal, here, and I challenge someone to come up with a cover that sums the character up more.

It can be snagged for cover price or even cheaper which seems impossible to me, but there ya go. I think (and I know I’m not alone, here) that Oliver will prove to be a cover-juggernaut, soon. If so, covers like these will dry up fast.

It’s a “B” cover and was part of that 75th Anniversary group of covers for the Joker character, so it may be slightly less common as a result, but I still find them fairly regularly. This is one of those covers where I say, I don’t care if it’s worthless forever, I NEED it for my PC. I hope you agree.


2. Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword #3 (2005 series)
PUBLISHED: Dynamite Entertainment – November, 2005
ARTIST: Gabrielle Dell’Otto


If it seems like I keep putting Dell’Otto’s on these lists, that’s because I am. He’s a friggin’ master, but his high-end incentive variants sadly overshadow his earlier/regular cover work. His use of line evokes so much emotion and movement and his mastery of the media and of form are virtually unparalleled in the hobby.

I don’t think there’s a character he CAN’T crush. If there is, I certainly haven’t seen it, yet. Dell’Otto actually has a few covers in the various Red Sonja runs, but many of them are collaborative works and consist of his paints over someone else’s layouts.

This #3 cover, however, is all-Dell’Otto, all-day-long. Now, I am a big Dell’Otto and a Red Sonja collector as my fellow Nashville CBSI’ers can attest to, but not even I knew this cover existed until a couple of months ago. When I saw it, I literally stood up from where I was sitting and said out loud, “I need that, now.” I know, don’t remind me; I have a sickness.

Don’t judge me. Anyhow, this one is a stand-out from other Sonja covers in that it isn’t overly sexified. It shows a stoic strength in the character that I wish were depicted more often. It can be grabbed for a dollar or two over cover and, if you’re lucky, in a dollar bin from time to time. There is not a virginized version of this one like so many other Red Sonjas and it’s too bad.

This one would have been beautiful as a virgin cover. This puppy had a fairly hefty print run for a Sonja Book (41,865), so it should be a breeze to find in comparison to others in the series.


3. Joker’s Asylum II: Killer Croc One-Shot (2010)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 2010
ARTIST: Francesco Mattina


I know Mattina is a cover-god, these days, so PLEASE don’t crucify me for saying this, but I have to admit that I feel early Mattina is messy. There’s no other way to put it. It’s often too blurry (which is a not-so-slick way of hiding mistakes) and there are often too many characters on the page.

In short, they just don’t do it for me. However, he has cleaned up his work immensely as of late and he has caught a fire that would burn down an entire universe, as a result (and for good reason). Taking a look at his current variants like Thrawn #1 are enough to make drool form on the corners of your mouth, but there are a few great covers from him that don’t need you to take out a mortgage.  

Right at the sweet-spot where Mattina’s mastery kicks in and before everything becomes a variant AND before the store variant craze (to which Mattina has fallen prey), there is this little nugget. A ferocious cover that really puts an amazing spin on the Killer Croc character.

It does, admittedly, have a bit of a venom-ish feel to it, but it still shows an amazing pose with a menacing stance and tons of action and movement. The energy is just there and it is clear that this piece and few others during this timeframe would be the gateway to Mattina’s future work.

The best news of all is that it’s still a $5 book. With the kind of popularity everything Mattina is getting, now, I wouldn’t let the grass grow under you on this one.

P.S. – As a side note, if you haven’t gotten your hands on that Deathstroke vs. Batman #30 yet, it can also be gotten for close to cover, but that one (unlike the Killer Croc, above) is on everyone’s radar. While there’s nothing rare about it, it is a killer cover and probably will not stay at or around cover price for long.


4. Deadpool / Cable #26 (but really it’s Cable, vol.2, 2008)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – April, 2011
ARTIST: Dave Wilkins


Okay, so this guy’s Skeletor cover for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 has become legendary. His Black Panther cover is getting close to as popular and there are a few other super-hot covers of his that are steaming up.

I love it when the community discovers a talented artist and blows him/her up. Wilkins is no exception. Pretty much every cover he’s done is a masterpiece and he’s finally getting his just desserts. There are a few standouts amidst his work. Chief among them, in my opinion, is this cover.

Since the Hope Summers spec hit a few months ago, this one has piqued my interest and I can’t stop buying copies. Every time I see one, I buy it for fear it will be the last time I see it cheaply. Luckily, this one still remains only a buck or two over cover price, at the moment.

It is a little on the rarer side since it is the tale-ender for the 2008 Cable series (The last two issues, #25 and this #26 were titled Deadpool/Cable presumably because Deadpool was a more popular character, at the time), but I still find it everywhere. Put bluntly, this is the most bad-ass Deadpool cover there is. Looking the toughest I’ve ever seen. While I do love the wisecracking comedy of Deadpool being depicted on covers, it is awfully nice to get this other side of the character.

The action on this one is palpable and the color choices are superb. It is just pure Deadpool comin’ at ya!!! This is another one that I wouldn’t care if it remained forever-worthless. I’ll just hold my many, many copies and give them hugs (gentle, bagged and boarded hugs, of course).

SIDE-NOTE FOR VARIANT HUNTERS: There is a Dynamic Forces version of this cover signed by Duane Swierczynski, but it was REALLY rare. Only 75 copies were done up, so good luck on that one.


5. Vampirella #1 (2014 series)
PUBLISHED: Dynamite Entertainment – June, 2014
ARTIST: Jenny Frison


Okay, so this one is hot (not market-hot, but girl-hot). Likewise, Frison is hot. Double-likewise, Vampirella is hot. Much like her Wonder Woman B covers, I could have chosen about 10 of these Frisons, but I went with my favorite that is still nice and cheap.

I did hesitate to put a #1 on here since it is “technically” a key to some people. Inasmuch, do yourselves a favor and check out #3 and #6, as well. Both are equally incredible and could have been subbed in. The print run was a decent size on this one since it was the #1 (roughly 23,000-ish), so it shouldn’t be a killer to locate.

Man, I’ll say it’s awfully nice to have a girl drawing girls. Vampi is still a sex-pot, here, but she actually looks like a real woman. Testament to Frison who is a master at skin tones and her Georgia O’Keeffe-like simplicity makes every cover a masterpiece. I wish I had been smart enough to buy this run when it was new, a few years ago. Alas, I am not that smart. 

Both these and the current Wonder Woman runs from Frison are starting to differentiate price-wise. I think that picking a few stand-outs while they’re cheap is smart spec. Eventually, a few of these will pull away from the pack and you don’t want to be left wishing you’d gotten them at $5-$10, apiece.  

SIDE-NOTE FOR VARIANT HUNTERS: There is a Virgin Variant for this one and it will run you up into $two-hondo, but that is mostly due to rarity.  There were only 50 copies… ouch!!


6. ** BONUS **
X-Men Classics (1986 series – Classic X-Men prior to April, 1990)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – January, 1993
ARTIST: Adam Hughes


Well, here is an almost-forgotten beauty. I just felt compelled to add this one, this week. I’m sure die-hard Hughes fans already know it, but many others do not which surprises me. For instance, I was B-S’ing at a dealer’s table with a few other collectors, this weekend, and asked if he had a copy.

None of them knew what I was talking about and looked at me as though I was an alien. It became an all-out search through the whole show for copies. This cover and the others in this X-men Classic run (#72-#79) are all worth checking out, especially #72 and #77.

However, in my opinion, this #79 is BY FAR the most compelling of them all. Obviously, it screams 1990’s, but that’s part of its charm. One can tell that Hughes is already desperately trying to break the 90’s mold in this run, and he accomplishes it.

These covers (and a few of his other 90’s covers) stand out as a changing of the guard that would usher in this amazing modern era of covers that we enjoy so much. We are spoiled. Modern covers have brought the art form to new heights.

Anyhow, I digress… on this bad-boy, Dark Phoenix is looking formidable and simultaneously sexy and, even with the employment of the limited 90’s printing color palette, she just jumps off of the page.

The brilliant use of the “white heat” from the fire and the background characters in sepia tones help to keep the focus on Phoenix. My only criticism of the cover is that “X-MEN CLASSIC” is written in blue. I really want it to be red or that same light lime-ish green from the dying “light” Phoenix on the bottom of the cover.

That’s me just being nit-picky, though. While this isn’t Hughes’ best cover, ever, it is certainly a good one and a milestone in his early career. You can already see the germination of what would make his famous Wonder Woman covers so awesome. This one will run you touch over cover on ebay (like $5-$7), but it still lurks in a lot of dollar bins considering many people don’t know this is a Hughes cover.

I found two, this week. The others in the run carry zero premium. So, pick your favorite and dig out your pocket change (just don’t be that guy that pays with all pennies).

That’ll do it for this week. I hope there was a little something in there for everyone. Thank you, everyone, for your support of this column. I’m really glad you’re digging it as much as I am writing it. Please, feel free to sound off in the comments section, below. Next week, as promised, I’ll tackle some unsung Bronze Age books. The week after, I’m leaning on focusing on one particular artist or one particular character. I appreciate you taking the time to read and, as always, happy hunting.

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