Issue #9: Periodically Perfect Part 1

Salutations from Music City, my dear friends. Not too much new to report, from here, this week. Since it was a rather slow one, I can sit with my coffee, here, and go off on a little tangent.

A few weeks ago, I promised this one was incoming. Many of us rarely consider magazines when hunting down cool covers.

However, there are so many great magazine covers from the Bronze and Copper Age, doing a 5-cover column seemed impossible.

Thus, this is just a first taste of what will be many more courses (Next week will be part 2 and there will be at least a part 3 to come sometime over the next month).

So, if your favorites don’t show up in this week’s list, never fear, they are apt to sneak their way into a later one.

Some of the trouble with collecting magazines is whether many of us even consider them to be comics at all. In some cases, they are actual comic stories that usually contain black and white pages rather than color.

In many cases, making these “comics” magazine-sized was a way for publishers to get around the rating systems set forth by the comics code.

In others, there may just be comic-related articles not dissimilar to a paper version of CBSI or even just monthly price guides. Some are pop-culture spoofs like “MAD” and “Cracked” and others are fanzines and/or character-specific homages.

In short, the rabbit hole is DEEP on these and it could turn itself into a monster rather quickly (which may be a good thing).

As many of you have no doubt already seen, thanks to Topher’s amazing write-ups, a ton of these magazines contain actual first appearances of some of our most beloved characters such as Black Suit Spiderman, Harley Quinn, etc. Inasmuch (and especially now that CGC will grade magazine-sized items), I expect many magazines to begin to find their legs and see dramatic price increases.

Many that have long-since been discovered have already done this such as FOOM #10 (1st New X-Men), Savage Tales #1 (1st Man-Thing), Marvel Preview #4 (1st Star-Lord), Marvel Preview Presents #2 (Origin of The Punisher) among a myriad of others.

Whatever the case may be and whatever it is you like most about the magazine side of comic-related collecting, I will just be looking at covers over these issues rather than content. I’ll leave the interior content to other writers who are more knowledgeable about such things.

So, without further pomp and circumstance, here are this week’s choices:

 

1. EPIC Illustrated #3 (1980 Series – Really, 1979 for issue #0)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – September, 1980
ARTIST: Paul Gulacy

 

Like so many of the titles, below, I could choose at least a dozen exquisite covers from this run. Epic Illustrated ran for 35 issues (if you include the #0) from 1979-1986 and it is a showcase of cover perfection.

It was also a literal who’s-who of comic genius in that every issue was loaded with art and stories from comicdom’s elite. It was aimed at mature readers.

This particular issue seems a touch more sought after than others, but copies are still easily gotten for $10-$15. However, get your hands on a high grade copy and it can quickly become a $100-$150 mag.

While I almost chose issue #17 for its intricate detail (check that one out if you have a sec), I thought this one really “ticked all the boxes,” as it were.

The color and lighting work are near perfection and it would stand up to any of the art being pushed out to market, today. It certainly doesn’t feel “1980,” that’s for sure. It is fresh and modern and beautiful. I particularly like the integration of the title in with the artwork.

This gives a blend to the cover that does not distract from the artwork. Many Epic covers did this and I wish more titles would. It is a respectful nod to the artist.    

There is a deep depth of field in this piece and an amazing usage of space. The layers create wonderful dimension; it it staged beautifully. The color palette is stark and dichromatic which literally make the setting seem realistically sweltering.

The large use of white give it that glare that an overly sunny climate would have. In short, it just feels hot. A masterful cover that stands out amidst a magazine run full of masterful covers.

 

2. Vampirella #58 (also re-used on #97) (1969 Series)
PUBLISHED: Warren Publishing – March, 1977
ARTIST: Enrich Torres

 

Considering Warren chose to use this cover art twice, I must not be alone in thinking this is some fantastic work. However, the market seems to be asleep on this and many beautiful Vampi covers.

Perhaps it is because there are so many, but a good 90% of them can be gotten for $10 or less, this one included. Really, only the first and last issues command any real cash.

This cover has near-perfect layout and is rendered in an exemplary way. To be fair, many Vampi covers are a miss for me. They are either too cluttered or the art is static and has no feeling or movement.

Or, worse yet, Vampirella herself is so ridiculously drawn, it actually takes away from the composition. This cover does not suffer those woes. The foreshortening and positioning of Vampi give this cover a depth of field that lends beautiful perspective.

The moon in the backdrop pushes her forward and provides even further depth. Vampi’s body isn’t ridiculously exaggerated like on so many Vampirella covers and there are no distractions to her beauty, here. She takes center stage and fills the entire composition.

The color work on her skin is lit impeccably and the use of shadow give this cover a realism which is quite rare on covers.

In short, this is a masterful work with beautiful expression and artistry. It can be snagged for an easy $10. Luckily, you have two chances to find this one in a back bin. If it doesn’t show up as issue #58, keep digging back to #97 and you may find it there.

 

3. The Comics Journal #107 (N/A)
PUBLISHED: The Comics Journal Inc. – April, 1986
ARTIST: Bill Sienkiewicz

 

This one is a little obscure, but beautiful nonetheless. Can’t afford the 1:75 Sink Variant of Elektra #1 from 2014? Never fear, snag this $5 magazine, instead. Clearly an influence on that Elektra #1 variant was this gorgeous 1986 cover.

Perhaps it was an earlier rendering of the same subject matter, perhaps the 2014 cover on Elektra #1 is, in fact, a much older piece of art. Regardless, both hit the same notes of style, color and emotion.

One would think there isn’t a ton to say about this one since it is so similar to that 2014 variant, however, the works are really quite different. I think that has quite a bit to do with how Sienkiewicz goes about his work.

In my recent discussions with both Angel Medina and Brian Stelfreeze, they both told me what it’s like to be alongside Sienkiewicz in an artist alley. They both said that Sink really doesn’t know exactly where he’s headed prior to starting a piece; he let’s pure inspiration take over. To me, that is true mastery.

In this case as with the case of the 2014 variant, Bill probably had a vague idea of the subject matter and pose, but let the media do the talking and, as a result, two VERY different pieces take shape.

In many cases, I like this piece better than the variant in that it is more delicate and intricate. The tones are softer and there is better flow to the work. There is an ethereal quality to Elektra that exhibits a poise and exuberance in the character.

Simultaneously, we are able to take in her beauty and grace.

This one is a little tough to locate since it was essentially ephemeral in nature, but copies do pop up from time to time. When they do, they rarely top $10.

 

4. The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #12 (1974 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – June, 1976
ARTIST: Boris Vallejo

 

So many great artists, so many great covers, but the one “problem” (and it’s not REALLY a problem) is that the majority of Savage Sword of Conan covers feature the same theme; Conan is battling a big baddie while the helpless (mostly naked) maiden is in the foreground being saved by her big, strong man.

Thus, I tried to look for something that exemplified this best and settled on this #12. There were, to be sure, many other choices. However, I find that Conan himself is often overly exaggerated and is drawn too big and muscular. This one does not suffer from that.

Boris is legendary and we can see why in this gorgeously rendered painting. It is clean work that illustrates the impending doom to perfection. Many Conan covers are overwrought and overworked.

Often there is too much color or an exaggeration of shadow and too much happening at once. While there are a lot of layers to this cover, it never feels cluttered.

This cover’s layout in fantastic with the girl taking up the foreground which sets Conan back. Her foreshortened top leg (right leg) draws the eye to Conan’s right leg.

Her stretched bottom leg (left leg) draws the eye to Conan’s left. In this way, everything is pointing to Conan and his stance, the true star of the cover. The skeleton zombies fade back into the mist (which is done to perfection, as well) only to reveal the oncoming doom in the backdrop. Each piece is set with a purpose and creates the perfect tableau.

Mostly, though, the best part for me is that Conan is realistically rendered as is the girl. I mean, look at the muscles in her back. Each muscle is shown how it would actually be in reality and the tension in those muscles provides all of the suspense of the moment.

Conan, as well, shows preparatory tension in his muscles, ready to strike. That is a true artist who has studied anatomy and it makes for a picture of beauty.

Again, this Savage Sword issue can be gotten for a song and a dance. You may be able to snag it for as low as $3 or $4.

 

5. Heavy Metal #44 (1977 Series)
PUBLISHED: HM Communications – November, 1980
ARTIST: Hajime Sorayama

 

Okay, so Heavy Metal is a weird one, right? For me, as a kid, it was forbidden to buy them as they were often one very small step away from pornography. As such, there are many I cannot feature on this site.

Obviously, another mature readers “Fantasy” magazine, there were some strange stories, some very strange art and some EXTREMELY strange covers. Much like Savage Sword of Conan, many of the greats worked on covers like Meobius and Wrightson, but every cover (at least through the 1980’s) was pretty amazing.

This particular cover is, I realize, a strange one in that it clearly challenges one’s definitions of “sexy.” I think that is the overall draw to all of the Heavy Metal covers, but all of them are rendered impeccably. There is an ambiguity and an androgyny to the “sex” of them.

The idea of the android girl was certainly not only a “Heavy Metal Magazine Idea.” Album covers on Autograph’s “”That’s the Stuff,” Aerosmith’s “Just Push Play” (both covers also by Hajime Sorayama) and even Asia’s “Astra” (by Roger Dean) all play into this idea of the sexy robot girl cover.

Hell, even as far back as the silent film era with Fritz Lang’s 1927 epic “Metropolis,” the idea of the beautiful robot girl was a part of pop culture.  

Regardless of how strange some of these covers make one feel, there is no denying how fantastic the art is. The cover is uncluttered and simple with a near perfect layout.

The execution on the metallic skin is a beautiful illusion and the demure nature of the sheet covering the girl gives her a more human quality; one of emotion, shy expression and feeling. It is truly a work of classic pop culture art and will only cost a fiver.

***

So, dear readers, that does it for Part #1 of my magazine issue. Stay tuned for next week’s Part #2. I really hope you enjoyed this one. Tell me how you’re feeling in the comments below or shoot me a line. I look forward to hearing you all sound off. Until next week, happy hunting and thanks for reading.

 

Mike Morello

 

5 comments

  • natethegreat80

    There are some great covers in that 1st Vampirella series.

  • Epic 3 …The reason its a hot book is that its first App (OR some will say Cameo) of Dreadstar

  • Great article and really good choices. Whenever I hit an out of town shop I always ask if they have any mags and they rarely do or it’s a small, weak selection. I’m glad to see them get some love. I’m a sucker for Sienkiewicz and especially anything of his Elektra related. Thanks for tipping me to that one. Epic, Vampi, Savage Sword, Heavy Metal? I don’t know how you could choose there’s so many great ones. Eerie and Creepy are LOADED with them. I don’t do Mad or Cracked but I do collect National Lampoon which usually have a bit of classic art and often comic type stories inside them. Cheap Frazetta or Neal Adams material anyone? Are they comic books? Nah, not at all really but I do think they’re overlooked and would interest many collectors if they looked.

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