Issue #8: Sexy Sells

Greetings from Nashville where we got an instant Summer, this year. Literally, we went from a 34 degree night to a 94 degree day, a couple of weeks ago, and we haven’t looked back.

With Summer in Music City comes less clothing and in honor of said scant-cladliness, I figured I’d do a sexy cover segment. I threw in a monster cover to try and balance things out a bit, but 4 of the 5 are some of my all-time favorite girly covers.

I am really excited for this one as I have held two of these back until now.

As much as I attempt to understand the popularity of certain “girl cover” comics, I fail to figure out why certain covers outperform others. It often seems to follow no logic. The same artist, the same series, the same rarity and yet vastly different values.

Every time I feel I have the formula, I find I am grossly mistaken. However, here is what I HAVE learned (in no particular order)…

 

Fantasy Realism 

Fans seem to gravitate toward body types that are almost realistic, but not quite. Slight elongations, slight “enhancements” etc., however, if they are too exaggerated, fans seem to recoil from them. For instance, many J. Scott Campbell covers became too unrealistic and “jumped the shark.” As such, they lost their sex-appeal.

 

Skin

Not too little, but not too much. This can be a tough balance. Fully naked just seems creepy and even close to fully naked seems to make many people uncomfortable. However, a little bit of clothing that merely SUGGESTS nudity seems to be the way to go. That or REALLY form-fitting suits can suggest nudity without the actual nudity, itself.

 

Face

No butter faces (see Manara’s Carol Danvers variant). Faces, like bodies, need to have that balance between fantasy beauty and realism. Not too cutesy, not too overdone. Again, it can be a tough balance. Even some of the “masters” get them wrong from time to time. For instance, Adam Hughes’ Wonder Woman run is pretty revered, but there are a few duds in the run and it’s mostly to do with the poorly rendered faces.

 

Hot Artist Known For Drawing Hot Girls

Um, yeah. Not a lot to say, here. This seems to fluctuate as some artists get hot while others fizzle while still others resurge. It is tough to know who’s hot, today, and cold, tomorrow. There are usually some safe bets, though, a few of which are displayed on today’s list.

 

Print Runs

Low print runs and high ratio variants when combined with the right cocktail of the above factors is usually what boosts a book into the stratosphere. See Wonder Woman #38 Finch 1:100 Variant.

 

The Perfect Cocktail 

Very few books fall into this realm of hot girl covers. Supergirl Legion of Superheroes #23 1:10 variant is the obvious legend. There are a few others, but not many. As such, those few books command CRAZY-INSANE prices, especially if they were incentive variants and in high grade.

 

With that, let’s let the covers talk, shall we?

 

1. Fairest #6 (2012 Series)
PUBLISHED: DC “Vertigo” Comics – October, 2012
ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

I could probably put an Adam Hughes cover on every single list I do. Not necessarily because I’m a fan (because I am certainly NOT always a fan… see Peggy Bundy Red Sonja), but because he has so many amazing covers that I don’t think I’ll ever run out.

This cover, though, may be the most beautiful of the unsung Adam Hughes covers. It is a thing of pure perfection. If this thing had been an incentive variant, the price would be BONKERS! That said, it isn’t a common book. There were only about 19,000 copies printed, so it will not pop up too often.

This is a classic example of the suggestion of nudity making a cover sexy and that stems from a few factors. The first, this is clearly a snapshot moment… two more seconds and that lavender sheet is not in the same position (ahem), the petals falling from her hand are on the ground and that exquisite light shining through her hair is no longer creating the perfect glow; the frozen moment is superbly accomplished.

Secondly, there is just enough skin to suggest she is completely nude under the sheet, however, you cannot actually see very much of anything. Third, there is a demure innocence about the depiction as if we are catching her in a private moment. The position of her arms pushes her body forward in a suggestive, but decidedly NOT naughty, way.

The cascading sheet fills the negative space and gives the composition a perfect layout without “McFarlane-ing” it. (I.e. capes EVERYWHERE!!!!) Color palette, here, is superb as is the very subtle use of shadow and light to accentuate the figure and her face. Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful covers on the market, today.

The composition of this cover rivals Supergirl: Legion of Super-Heroes #23, in my opinion. Yet, somehow, it is a cover price book. I want this one is high grade. Someday, the Hughes-ians will latch on to this one and, if they do, it will shoot up fast given the low print run.     

 

2. Queen Sonja #23 (2009 Series)
PUBLISHED: Dynamite Entertainment – November, 2011
ARTIST: Lucio Parrillo

 

Have mercy!!! Okay, so this one is hardly fooling anyone. It is all-out sex. Believe it or not, I generally do not go for overt sexualization (as I feel that practice is a lazy money grab), but in this case, there is something about just how amazing it is that exonerates it.

I haven’t, to date, featured Parrillo, but I could have put him on here every week, as well. He has so many fantastically rendered covers that every time I find a new one, it becomes my new favorite.

Famous mostly for his Red Sonja and Vampirella covers, he has done a ton of other work. Like many of his Italian counterparts like Dell’Otto, his painting techniques are masterful. In this particular case, I think that the juxtaposition of violence and nudity is what makes it so sexy.

It isn’t JUST that Sonja is mostly naked (although that certainly helps). It is also to do with her strength. That is almost as sexy as her nudity. After all, the Red Sonja character is based on that mantra and this cover accomplishes is, perfectly; It is the embodiment of Red Sonja.

Like so many Parrillo covers, lighting and perspective are the keys. The head of Sonja’s kill in the foreground helps to push her back into the composition and her positioning is perfect blocking (from a theater perspective) as she is not closed off to the “audience.” Of course, she’s chosen her best side to show us.

Butt jokes aside, though, Sonja seems strong and formidable in this scene and, much like the Hughes, above, this is another great snapshot moment with the snow drifting and the blood cascading off of her morning star.  

These little Parillo puppies are a little rare as the print runs on Queen Sonja issues were small and often split over 2 or 3 covers. This one had a print run of 6523 copies split over two covers.

This is the “A” cover and will run ya more than cover price, but not much more. Expect to pay $10-$12. I do see a copy go for $20 or $25 from time to time, but that seems to just be because of impatience. Either way, these Parillo covers are sought after even by people who don’t collect these titles.

Thus, when one pops up, don’t sleep on it. It won’t last long.

 

3. Supergirl #1 (2005 [4th] Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – October, 2005
ARTIST: Michael Turner

I must confess, Turner is hit or miss for me. He sometimes jumps the shark on “cute” and, as a result creates women who are too unrealistically rendered. It is a downfall of many modern “girly” cover artists like J. Scott Campbell. [I know that it seems as though I’m a Campbell basher, but all cards on the table, I have Campbell covers I own and absolutely love. There are, however, reasons why some of them are NOT as great as others. I am merely attempting to point them out to the best of my abilities].

In this particular case, there is an infectious allure to this Supergirl cover. It is mostly in the eyes for me. Additionally, though, it is the composition and layout; the sweep of the cape, the cascading wind-tossed hair and, most of all, the color. Because of the uniform nature of the yellows and reds in the background and cape (and logo for that matter), the Blue costume pops and, as a result, her eyes pop.

No matter what, I am always drawn to the eyes in this one. They are personal and seductive yet somehow shy and kind.

This “look” for Supergirl has been on a few Turner covers. The most notable, of course, is a German reprint variant of Superman & Batman #8 which has Supergirl clinging nakedly to the remnants of her costume.

That one, as many of you already know, is just a re-rendered piece from an interior panel on the final page, but it will certainly cost you if you ever even find one. This Supergirl #1 cover is just as good (actually, I think it’s better) and can easily be gotten for cover price or less.

It is technically the “B” cover even though the barcode numbering doesn’t suggest it.

NOTE FOR VARIANT HUNTERS: There is a 2nd printing sketch variant of this cover where just the “S” on her chest is in color. It’s cool, but loses all of the allure of the 1st printing color version, in my opinion.

It is also a cover-price-or-less grab if you’re into such things.

 

4. Vampirella Annual #2 (2010 Series)
PUBLISHED: Dynamite Entertainment – August, 2012
ARTIST: Joseph Michael Linsner

 

Man, do I love Linsner’s work! I have wanted to feature him for a long time, now, and am glad to finally be able to. Linsner is Vargas all over again. His work on Barbarella and Betty Page have knocked it out of the park, this past year, especially the Virgin versions.

Much of Linsner’s time over the years has been devoted to his own character, Dawn, as well as various Vampirella series. There are also a few other Dynamite one-offs, a bunch of Witchblade and various others here and there.

What I love most about this cover and others like it is the timeless quality they have. In this particular case, if I didn’t know any better and you told me that this from the 70’s magazine run for Vampi, I’d have believed you.

It fits right in to the signature look of Vampirella and that magazine run. It has the vintage color palette and a polishing to it that very few modern covers achieve.

When I spoke to Linsner a few months ago, he was very vocal about Vargas (Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chavez: b. 1896 – d. 1982 – Peruvian Pin-Up girl painter for Playboy Magazine, et. al.) being a main influence of his and that can be clearly identified in his work.

Linsner has a distinctive style, though, which stands apart from Vargas and he portrays the “pin-up style body” very uniquely. I am mostly drawn to his rendering, proportions and slightly dramatic use of light. He is sometimes critiqued for his turned-up and pointy breasts, but that is a hold-over from those early days of the pin-up model.

I think it is a fitting homage to his idols and, honestly, a fairly natural depiction of many real women. It is just not a natural look for comic book women. So many artists have gotten so far away from what a real woman looks like, when we see a feature that is actually naturally occuring, we think, “that doesn’t look right.”

Many of us in the comic world have twisted our own perceptions of natural beauty.

My favorite piece of original art is a Red Sonja color commission Linsner did for me over two sessions, this year. He was incredibly gracious and generous. He was a pleasure to speak with and I was thrilled with the work he did for me.

Anyhow, this is yet another beautiful book that languishes in cover price limbo. I don’t care what it’s worth; it is gorgeous.  Only 5870 copies of this issue, so it isn’t common, but it is cheap.

 

5. Toxin #1 (2005 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – June, 2005
ARTIST: Esad Ribic

 

Phew, I had to take a breather from pretty girl covers and balance things out a little with a monster. This cover embodies all that is great about the extremely underrated Esad Ribic. Usually, he is relegated to ensemble “A” covers and rarely gets to shine.

In this cover, however, we really get to see all of the unbridled disarray and fury of the symbiote. With rife rumors of Toxin and other “B-Team Symbiotes” showing up in the upcoming Venom film, finding unsung covers like these may be a smart move.

Sometimes, Ribic’s work looks a little disjointed, but not here. It is smooth, clean and masterful work with fantastic detail and rendering. The slight mist gives it a 60’s/70’s horror cover feel. I’m not an enormous fan of the trade dressing (mostly because of the clashing color), but it is a product of its times.  This one is cheap, cheap, cheap, right now. Cover or less.

 

 

Well, that’ll do it for another week. I look forward to you all sounding off in the comments. Have a lovely week, may the back bins be kind and, as always, happy hunting and thanks for reading.

 

Mike M

 

6 comments

  • Ben C

    Superb covers Mike!!

  • Good article. Most of my collection these days aside from the books that I actually read are covers of beautiful superhero women. My personal favorites are Artgerm and Hughes. You mentioned the Supergirl cover that is a “German reprint variant of Superman & Batman #8 which has Supergirl clinging nakedly to the remnants of her costume.” Aspen did a SDCC 2017 virgin variant of it. They go for $85-$100 raw and $175-$200 CGC 9.8 on Ebay. I don’t own one yet but I think that might have to change. Turner is another favorite of mine though sadly I don’t own much of his work.

    Side note: I can’t wait to see the Artgerm Catwoman covers.

    • Mike Morello

      Yes, totally agree! … I have one of those Aspen SDCC virgin variants. It’s even more beautiful in person. I highly suggest picking one up. It was pretty limited. Good call and thanks for reading!

  • SkillzWeldon

    Great Picks. Adam Hughes has the title of Sexy Girl Covers. Esad Ribic has an amazing Gamora #1-5 original art as well saw those in person at Baltimore Comic Con.

  • Totally agree with you on everything but the Sonja cover, for me Parillo is another victim of the butterface. I’m guessing you didn’t want to feature the same artist more than once but there are some amazing Hughes and Frison Sonja covers that have all the qualities you mentioned going for them.

    And Ribic is an awesome guy, met him once and he was very gracious and talked with my kids and I for a few minutes about comics and art.

    • Mike Morello

      I have already featured those other artists’ Red Sonja covers in previous issues of Cover Tunes, but you are right, they have awesome Sonja covers as do Dell’Otto and Ross (also featured in previous Cover Tunes issues). Good calls, though. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.