Issue #12: Kickin’ it Old School

Greetings from Music City, fine folks. Here, in Nashville, a lot of late Silver Age/Early Bronze Age has been popping up for sale in collections and in shops, recently. I’m not sure I understand why people are letting that stuff go, but it has enticed me to write up a few of my favorite covers from this era that can still be gotten cheaply.

I use the word “cheaply” very loosely in that any high grade book from the Silver Age will cost ya a pretty penny. However, down in the mid-grades, the following beautiful covers can still be snagged for a song and a dance.

The Silver Age is an awfully tricky era to collect in. Many of the Marvel Mega keys exist in that timeframe (some would say all of them) and for DC, the Silver Age re-introductions of much-beloved Golden Age characters are abundant.

Inasmuch, especially in the case of DC, finding copies in decent and collectable condition can be one heck of a headache (and a wallet-ache, as well).

Additionally, many if not most of the awesome Silver Age covers exist on those keys. However, the value on “run” issues that surround the keys drop exponentially and for those who can ferret out sound copies of the other beautiful covers can find themselves with a particularly lovely collection.

Thus, this week, we have a few of my favorite covers from an art standpoint. For the most part, the covers I’ve chosen, below, are those that stand out to me in some way; either due to art that is ahead of its time, is particularly striking in some way or really speaks to design aesthetic.

These five covers are a drop in the proverbial bucket for the Silver Age, but it should be a nice start if you’re looking for some affordable options.

Here we go…

 

1. Green Lantern #73 (1960 Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – December, 1969
ARTIST: Gil Kane

 

This cover strikes me in a variety of ways. First, it is by Gil Kane who is decidedly NOT known for his sexy covers. To be fair, he’s not particularly well known for bold or striking covers, either. He is generally known for good, solid work week-in-week-out and there is nothing at all wrong with that.

To me, this Green Lantern #73 is not only a departure for Kane, but a departure for the Silver Age in general. This is a pose and an “angle” on Star Sapphire that we would expect from a cover that came out yesterday, but certainly not one that came out almost 50 years ago.

I mean, take a look at the value at the butt shot Finch 1:100 variant cover for Wonder Woman #38 or even the Psylocke mini-series #1 cover which both feature the same posterior greatness. Both are sought after covers for this reason.

This isn’t just a good cover because it’s sexy, though. It is a color palette and perspective masterpiece. There is a ton of depth in the many-layered smoke effects, but its really the color choices that strike me the hardest. Having Star Sapphire so heavily inked causes her to pop from all of the light pink hues.

No other color clashes with it which allows Green Lantern to do the same being predominantly green which, in turn, ties the trade dress into the cover. All space is utilized perfectly and effectively. All-in-all a beautifully laid out cover (and a surprise gem from this artist) that won’t cost much more than $10-$15.

 

2. Captain Marvel #15 (1968 1st Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – August, 1969
ARTIST: Marie Severin

 

I have waited a long time to feature this cover because it is such a gem amidst a sea of ho-hum covers.

There are a few other decent covers in this Captain Marvel Run like #1 and #10, but this one blows me away every time I see it and it’s by a virtually unknown artist who is better known for a lot of inking work and covers for kids books like Transformers, Fraggle Rock, Ewoks and Muppet Babies in the ‘80’s.

There was some one-off work for the big houses during the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, but not much of notoriety. This cover, however, is the standout and is a visual onslaught of stimuli. It is all about the motion and color on this one and has the vibe of the more psychedelic artists of the time.

There is a simplicity achieved in the chaos by limiting the color palette and, put simply, it just kills! The colors chosen tie the trade dress in nicely and the level of depth and detail is masterfully accomplished.

Nothing is out of place and the skyline along the horizon does an extended job of providing perspective. This draws our eye to the galactic meteor swirl and then down to Captain Marvel exactly as a great cover should.

This one is a $5-$10 snag and well worth every penny.

 

3. Doctor Strange #171 (1968 1st Series retitled from Strange Tales at #169, onward)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – August, 1968
ARTIST: Dan Adkins

 

Man, here is another cover that crushes! Slap this puppy on a modern issue of DS and no one would bat an eyelash. The intricate pencil work, psychedelic feel, color presence and spatial layout are brilliant, here.

The extension of mystic shields or lightning up into the trade dress tie the cover together expertly, the foreshortening achieved in the fingers of Dormammu (I assume) provide a sense of doom and simultaneously give great mood and depth.

There is a real struggle, here, and it is most acutely noticeable on Strange’s face.

So many elements are going on at once, however, there is no sense of clutter. That is the sign of a master draughtsman. All of the wonder and drama can be felt and everything just pops. It is an in-your-face, striking blitze of color, intrigue and mood. Oh, and it’s eminently get-able for $10.

 

Justice League of America #51 (1960 1st Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – February, 1967
ARTIST: Mike Sedowsky

 

Ah, Zatanna!!! Here is another cover I’ve waited a long time to feature and I am always searching for a better copy with the darkest background I can. The dark cover makes this one tough to find in nice shape and the darker the backdrop, the better Zatanna looks.

Let’s face it, this cover is mostly great because of that Zatanna portion of it. In my opinion, this is the best Silver Age cover rendering of the character and that’s why I chose it.

Yes, the rest of the cover is just fine, Batman looks fine, the Elongated Man looks equally fine, etc. etc., but the only reasons they are fine is because they’re good enough to NOT take away from the overall cover and, by extension, NOT take away from Zatanna.

In general, this cover is just another classic example of Silver Age DC “run” covers. However, upon closer examination, it has some elements that make it stand apart from its counterparts. In it, Zatanna’s pose is sexy and tough. Serious and focused. The flames licking around her are exquisitely achieved and assist in accentuating her.

She is the highlight, no doubt, and this cover is equally the highlight of an otherwise forgettable run of covers.

This one might cost you a touch more than the others, above, merely because Zatanna fans are always seeking it, but it still should never set you back more than $20-$25.

 

5. House of Mystery #195 (1951 Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – October, 1971
ARTIST: Bernie Wrightson (Bernard Albert Wrightson)

 

House of Mystery can very much be considered a “Funny Book” until the real Mystery Format begins in issue #174. At that juncture, the covers change drastically, as well, and become dark and ominous.

Neal Adams art adorns many of its covers during these years and all are fantastic. There are some collectors who just collect those and spend a lifetime trying to achieve a decent set of them. There are equally some unreal covers at the start of the Bronze Age on this title, too.

Because of this, and because so few covers actually happened in the Silver Age, proper, I have actually chosen an early Bronze Age cover rather than a Silver Age example. However, this still has a very “Silver Feel” to it, regardless of the actual publishing date.  

Argue semantics if you want, but a great cover is a great cover no matter when it was printed.

Choosing one of these masterpieces for this column was an almost impossible feat since so many of them are stupendous. However, I finally narrowed it down and chose this issue #195 mostly because of Wrightson and his genius.

Wrightson did do other covers on this title, but this is his best, most foreboding of the lot. The bat engulfs its prey and virtually comes right off the page as Wrightson has focused-in the rendering such that the wing is snipped on the left as if it is coming for you, next; a brilliant-yet-subtle effect.

The backdrop is done in sepia and does not detract from the main subject matter which, of course, draws our eye to that which we should.

 

Again, this cover is slightly more pricey (again, no more than $20-$25) mostly because many consider this cover to be a prototype cover for the Man-Bat. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to bank on that, but it’s an awesome cover at a cheap price, regardless.   

***

Well, sadly, that wraps up another issue. I REALLY appreciate all of the kind words and support from you all over the past few issues and I hope you liked this one, equally. Either way, I hope you will all continue to sound off in the comments and let me know your thoughts. Until next time, thanks for reading and may the box surfing yield great treasure.

 

Mike Morello

 

4 comments

  • Ben C

    LOVE that Wrightson, well done my friend

  • Man-Bat came first.

    • Mike Morello

      Yep, June, 1970 in Detective #400, but #1 came in December, 1975 and DC was still playing around with the character up until then. That’s why I stated “I’m not sure I’d go as far as that, but some feel”… etc. This being 1971, clearly the idea was still a work in progress. Thanks, so much, for reminding me to clarify that statement. I appreciate the comment and your having read!

  • That CM 15 is wild! How have I not seen this? Reminds me of the Black Hole. Galactic Terror! You just made me a follower of Severin. I just picked up Tales to Astonish 93 this past weekend and saw she did that cover as well. Time for another trip down the rabbit hole. Great piece man! I really enjoyed this!

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