Ty Templeton: Top 5 Covers (More like 15, but we love Ty!)
With more than 30 years of published work, Ty Templeton is a living legend and an artist (and writer) whom I will always follow. From Stig's Inferno to Spider-Verse, Mr. Templeton has collaborated in some of my favorite moments in comics, like Justice League International (that splash page of Darkseid casually reading!), a few brilliant pages in World's Funnest or the fake covers in Elseworlds 80-page Giant, not to mention his seriously undervalued graphic novel Bigg Time. His latest published long work is the Batman '66 / Green Hornet crossover and he will soon be back to Batman '66, too. He also publishes one of the funniest cartoons online, Bun Toons, at his website, so be sure to check that for one of the most relevants look at the industry (and sometimes life). Guaranteed, you will enjoy them!!!
When I asked Ty for this cover top 5, he surprised me with a bit more than I expected, but I will let him explain it …
I couldn't get it to just five covers, so I did five covers for the Golden Age, Silver Age and Modern Age. And I restricted myself to one example per artist or else they'd all be by Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Kirby, Bolland and Ross. But I think there's a decent sampling from each era this way…
GOLDEN AGE TOP 5
DETECTIVE COMICS #31
The third ever Batman cover turns out to be one of the most enduring images of the decade. Back while Bob Kane was still contributing his meager “something” to the creation he barely had a hand in developing but gets full credit for, he DID have a flair for cover design, as this much reproduced image proves. Neal Adams, Greg Capullo and even this humble artist have all done a version of this cover over the years.
TWO-FISTED TALES #26
There’s a reason one of the annual cartooning awards is called a “Harvey”. Mr. Kurtzman is one of the foundational creators of this biz and this cover demonstrates why in abundance. I’ve had a copy of this cover over my drawing table (in poster size) for a few decades, it greets me every work day. The interplay of curved lines vs. straight lines in the active and unconscious figures tells you everything you need to know about their struggle. The central triangle shape is a rock solid symmetrical compositional form, made elegant by the icy breath and bits of coat flying west in the wind. Add to it, one of the best “tough guy” speeches you’ll likely read and the cover becomes a tribute to the Marines that fought that battle, and a wonderful enticement to read their adventures in this issue. Lovely Marie Severin colours, too! Brilliant.
SPIRIT SECTION “MEET P’GELL”
And one of the OTHER annual cartooning awards is called an Eisner. The front page of Eisner’s Spirit section was probably the best piece of cartooning produced every week back in the forties, and anyone lucky enough to have a local paper carrying it, knew it. With so many hundreds of nearly perfect splash pages to choose from, I went with this sexy and enticing entry because of the clever way Denny Colt invites the reader into the story by parting that page/curtain for you. Turn the page and the fun begins. And OH, what fun. Considering the “funnies” were supposed to be for kids, there’s daring in specifically telling you this story is NOT meant for little boys. Most, if not all, the Spirit covers were clever ways of working the title into the artwork, but this one – talking directly to the readers as it does –is doing everything a cover should do. Don’t ask! Just Buy It! (to quote “King” Kirby)
BULLS EYE #5
And of course, we USED to have the “Kirby Awards” back in the 80s…to round out the artists who get to be immortalized with their own awards shows.
Almost any Kirby cover from the fifties deserves to be added to this list, but the Western series “Bullseye” seemed to bring out the designer in Jack. The covers all had a circular, “target” motif to the design, and this one carried it out to a delightful extreme, using native beadwork and decoration as a background. The figures in the foreground have all the passion and energy you’d want from a Kirby drawing, but dancing behind them was an explosion of colour that complimented, rather than distracted from what was going on.
SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #4
Woody was the consummate craftsman of this era, painstakingly placing every line in exactly the correct place with his beloved Windsor Newton brushes. His sf covers are deservedly famous for his lush, detailed artwork, but this rather prosaic image stands out to me because of a) the clever storytelling involved and b) the “shock” of the image matching so nicely to the title above it. Everything works together in a symphony of lines and colours that create the nigh-perfect wrap for this issue.
SILVER / BRONZE AGE TOP 5
These would be comics I saw and purchased off the comics racks as a child, or more specifically, saw advertised in the back of other comics and HAD TO FIND AND BUY THEM based on how much these covers blew my mind. Nick Cardy, Joe Kubert, Neal Adams and Carmine Infantino absolutely OWNED this era of comic covers (though Kirby was still amazing, he was represented in the last batch of covers). Steranko produced only a few covers during the era, and every one of them was special.
TEEN TITANS #16
This was the first cover I ever saw that itched me. I saw a copy of it in a DIRECT CURRENTS internal advertisement in a Superman comic, and was desperate to read that story because I’d never seen a cover like that where the logo was integrated into the drawing– and the image itself was a metaphor for the story, rather than an actual moment from a story. It was all very sophisticated stuff to a six year old reader. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that Eisner, and Kirby and the Cole and Kelly and lots of other creators had been doing this stuff for decades, because I’d never seen any of this “design” stuff before this Cardy cover. So it’s a watershed moment for me.
Nick Cardy is one of the unsung comic book creators of the Silver Age, by the way. He did a phenomenal job doing covers for DC for DECADES (and interiors for series like Titans and Bat-Lash) and doesn’t get the same notice that some of his contemporaries do.
I found the Titans issue with the dangerous giant book cover at a convention decades later. Good story. Worth the hunt. The cover paid off.
HULK ANNUAL #1
Steranko, Steranko, Steranko. Everything he did in the 60s-70s was exciting when I was ten or twelve years old. Steranko’s Nick Fury comics in Strange Tales, his Captain America stuff…it was like hard drugs to a comic junkie. I chased down Steranko’s one-off horror, romance and western comics (hard to find, obscure Marvel Tomb of Darkness or Love Romances Comics, too!).
I saw this cover advertised in an Avengers issue at the time, and the idea that Steranko had done a full length Hulk story (I think he’d done the Hulk in a couple of issues of Captain America already when this cover came out) was too much to bear. I couldn’t find a copy for sale, and it was another one of those treasures it took years to find at a convention. (We didn’t have those as regularly when I was but a lad).
The interiors turn out to be by Marie Severin. It’s still a HELL of a story, and I’m glad I tracked it down. That cover was a lure like you’ve never seen.
Again, it’s a case of integrating the logo into the design – A pure Eisner idea, but I didn’t know from Eisner when I was that age—the wonderfully broken logo leads down to a wonderfully energetic Hulk figure holding things together, rather than tearing them apart. And the flames integrate into the foreground without linework! Colour holds were still fairly new to my eyes. This cover has been swiped and homaged a half dozen times over the years. I did a subconscious tribute to it for a Spider-Man cover a couple of years ago.
Infantino was the KING of “grabber” covers at DC, especially on the Flash. He certainly did a number of them with Batman, though as this issue demonstrates. Again with incorporating the logo, I clearly dug that as a kid. Infantino’s willingness to let pure colour backgrounds (especially red, black and green) grab the eye and silhouette his characters doing dramatic things, matched with strong messaging in print somewhere, made for covers that grabbed your attention. Some of his Flash covers (You are witnessing the most TRAGIC day in the life of the Flash!) are legendary for this tactic (Again, I borrowed that idea for a Flash cover of my own some years later!)
This Batman Blockbuster cover was the first time I’d really noticed an Infantino cover as special. I still have the issue, purchased off the rack in something like 1968 when I was six or seven years old.
To say a “Dramatic Neal Adams Cover” seems redundant… every cover Neal ever did was dramatic. His covers for Mystery/Superman/Batman/SF/Western/Genre books at DC in the 60s were what heralded the “new look” for DC comics in that Silver Age…after Infantino made his mark in the early 60s, Adams stepped in and took over as the cover artist for almost the entire DC line, each one as eye-catching as the last one. I’d especially turn your readers towards his covers for books like Weird Western, Tomahawk, Witching Hour, House of Secrets, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, etc.- that are perhaps less seen than his Batman Superman, and X-Men work. Some of Neal’s House of Mystery covers are stunning.
There are so many Neal Adams gems to choose from, I went with this cover because it burned a hole in my skull from the first time I saw it. Again, the bold, featureless colour background forces the foreground characters to exist in silhouette. The parallel thrusts of action integrating into the overall curve of the basic composition, added to a kick ass specter of death stabbing at Robin, you got a cover that leaps off the rack. Bonus: The story inside is ALSO by Neal Adams. This is a great comic.
SGT. ROCK #375
I bought a LOT of Sgt. Rock comics in the silver age because the covers were SO promising. The sniper-scope angles, the forced perspectives, the hoards of Nazis ALWAYS hiding behind every darkened farmhouse door…they got me every time. The interiors were usually by artists like John Severin, or Russ Heath, or Sam Glanzman, or Joe Kubert himself, so it was never a problem to take one of these home.
Of all the fantastic Silver Age Sgt. Rock covers that Kubert did, this was my favorite, not just because he used a colour hold for a story based reason (something I just adored when I was a teenager), but because the composition and the tease were so masterfully combined to score a sale. How could you not want to read that story, with THAT cover?
Drawing and design are beautiful, of course. It’s Kubert.
These covers represent more modern era creators (though Bolland might squeak in as a Silver Age guy…). And all of these covers represent a comic book I bought just for the cover alone. Didn’t care if the interior was good or bad (or in one case, whether I already owned it or not).
JUDGE DREDD #1
The Bolland Judge Dredd cover was the first I’d heard of Judge Dredd…all I know is I wanted that cover. I kept buying Judge Dredd as long as Bolland did the covers (for Quality/Fleetway Comics in the 80s.) even if Bolland didn’t do the insides, though he often did. It started a tradition of buying ANY COMICS BOLLAND DID THE COVER FOR, that lasted well into the debacle that was INVISIBLES.
This one started it all.
WARLORD OF MARS #16
The Dynamite Warlord series is hit and miss, with less than A-list creators working the interiors. But oh-my-stars, those covers by Joe Jusko. After all this time, Joe’s still at the top of his game, perhaps even a bit better than ever. This issue is a particularly good example of a stellar run of wonderful painted covers.
I wasn’t reading this series, I didn’t know who Chronos was, and I don’t believe I’ve ever read the interior story (Sorry Moore and Guinan, but I wasn’t starting with issue #11).
That cover by Williams was gorgeous. It incorporates some of the same native design work of the earlier Bulls Eye cover by Kirby, and some of the elegance of simple arcs of thrust seen in the Adams and Kurtzman covers of yesteryear.
But it’s all put together so well. Couldn’t go home without this cover.
WONDER WOMAN #154
Another example of cover worth the price of the comic. There’s a couple of dozen Adam Hughes covers for Diana around this time – some are overdrawn and clunky, some or lovely. This is probably the best of the lovely ones, with simple compositional forms interacting with the capricious leaping of her magic lasso. Strong and feminine without being exploitive, and still attractive. When Hughes is on his game, he’s hard to beat.
The MARVELS series was such a game changer, and Alex Ross has been such a force of nature in the biz, especially with his covers, I had to include one of his. If one can overlook the “crotch shot” premise of it all, it’s a nice piece of story telling to get all in one beautifully rendered and coloured image. The story is told through the eye, and lens, of a normal person, who is a tiny, insignificant man compared to the marvels of this age. It’s adapted from a page from the interior story, and done perfectly…the best cover of a superior series, and I bought the collection just to have that wraparaound.
There’s some Alex Ross covers on “JUSTICE” and “The Shadow” that are worth checking out, and take a moment to enjoy the Batman 66 meets the Green Hornet Alex Ross covers. The interior art on those is fairly pretty!