ISSUE #17: Jocks are the Cool Kids

Welcome back, CBSI, to another artist-centric Cover Tunes. Last week’s BoP issue didn’t garner a ton of feedback, but I hope you all still saw a cool cover or two in there that enticed you to hunt. I had a particularly heavy hunting week here in Nashville and surrounding environs and came away with some nice pulls. Dollar digging is definitely not dead. Hit those boxes, CBSI. The gems are in there if you do the work.   

I’m not sure what was in the water, last week, but man was there a lot of debate over a ton of books. From Symbiote origins to who’s behind the Requiem mask. From which No Man’s Land issue is the real deal to which Teen Titans has Bumblebee. And then the market settled on a terrible cover as the hottest book of the week? Sheesh, this hobby baffles the mind, sometimes.

With enough Spider-Verse and Birds of Prey issues to choke a longbox and so many optioned properties I’ve honestly lost track of them all, spec is rife, but is there anyone else out there who’s feeling underwhelmed? I know I am. It’s all beginning to feel like a lot of noise and, as such, I’ve turned my attention to another tried-and-true talent who is currently a hot commodity with a body of work that has some real legs. Jock! (No, not Middleton. I know it sounded like I was heading there, but our very own Clint sorted him out last week. Check his Middleton article out, here. It is a great one).

Mark Simpson, a.k.a. “Jock” has been in the game longer than many of us may have thought. He seems hyper-recent, but in fact has been working in comics for just under 20 years. His beginnings were on the Judge Dredd Megazine in late 1999 and then found some hype when he did extensive work under the Vertigo label at DC on titles such as The Losers and Scalped. (For the purposes of this article, I am not including pieces from this period as it is not, in my opinion, his most representative work).  

Of course, Jock has become widely known for his cover on Detective Comics #880 which has become an instant classic cover. Thanks to a local Nashvillian CBSI member, I FINALLY acquired a copy of Tec #880, this week. Shout out to you and your karma, bud. You know who you are.  For most, Tec #880 is now out of reach as are a few of his incentive variants. His recent 2nd printing cover for Skyward #1 is hot at the moment as is his alternate cover for Gideon Falls #1 and I feel we have only just begun to see this artist’s potential.

Anyway, Jock’s style is quite polarizing as it is manic and quite loose. As such, he captures a movement and energy that very few others can. He is reminiscent of Sienkiewicz (which is perhaps why I dig him so much), but in a wholly original and modern way. Like so many modern artists, he employs a few variations on his style depending on the project, but in the end, it always screams “JOCK”!!

Many of his covers are hit-or-miss for me in that they become too busy in the layerings, but when he hits, the hits are immense. With all of the above in mind, Jock certainly has both his lovers and his haters as many highly stylized artist currently do and have done, historically. I, for one, expect big things from Jock in the future.   

Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?

 

  1. Wolverine MAX #14 (2012 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – February, 2014

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

Man, this cover has some serious attitude and it embodies all of the elements of Jock’s style that make him popular all in one cover. It is visceral and raw and says everything there is to say about Wolverine. The treatment of the subject matter is simple yet effective in delivering the menace of the character through form and grit. It feels like a frame straight out of a horror film.

The figural stance and simplistic color washes give it a stark feel with an intensive punch which, in turn, gives this a ton of eye appeal. Those muted hues serve to give the suggestion of blood and darkness. It is superb mastery and points to a mind that understands impact. There is a feeling of depth and motion while simultaneously giving us a snapshot into an intense singular moment.

This cover can be had for next to nothing, but I must say, I never see it floating around in boxes. You may have to ebay for this one. That is due to the lower print run of these issues (and, really, all MAX titles). There was only 14,118 copies of this issue. Others in the run are even lower and many of them are also incredible Jock covers you may want to snag, as well.

 

  1. Spawn #250 (1992 Series)

PUBLISHED: Image Comics – February, 2015

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

DAMN!!! Just DAMN! Look at that gorgeous thing, huh? Controlled chaos. A simply marvelous image to ponder and yet its worth $5. There have been some dope Spawn covers over the years, but this one may be my favorite. All those splashes of color and that free-form style in all the areas that that should be loose yet, simultaneously, tightened up in all of the places where it should be terse. It demonstrates all of the fury of Spawn with such efficiency. Nothing is extra. Anything not absolutely needed to tell the story is absent. This cover really demonstrates a true mastery of the art form. Bravo. I don’t have one of these, but I want one, NOW!

NOTE TO VARIANT HUNTERS: There was a 1:10 incentive black and white version of this cover, as well. There were actually 10 total covers for this milestone issue. 6 of them (including the regular Jock cover) were alternate covers and were cover price upon release. There was, in addition to the 1:10 Jock, also a 1:25, a 1:50 and a 1:100. Thus, the regular Jock should be a fairly easy find.

 

  1. All- Star Batman #6 “A” and “B” (2016 “Rebirth” Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – March, 2017

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

*** BONUS ***

Grayson #1 (2014 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – September, 2014

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

Jock has become known for all manner of awesome Batman-related covers. His run on Detective, as mentioned above, has become almost legendary, already. Not only is his #880 in that run amazing, but so many of the others are, as well. As mentioned, while Tec #880 may be out of reach for many, one can still snag splendid bat covers from Jock VERY inexpensively.

While not a widely loved run, his work on All-Star Batman “B” covers are probably among his best work. Time will tell if these covers pop in the marketplace. Hughes’ Wonder Woman covers certainly did on a run which, like All-Star Batman, also struggled to sell well. Perhaps the same will hold true with these and people will realize how great they are regardless of the stories inside.

This #6 for All-Star Batman is the most compelling of the eight covers Jock did for the run. Additionally, both the “A” and “B” covers sport slightly different takes on the same composition. Slight color changes and the bubble helmet were employed for the “B” cover, but in either case, the superb nature of the art is undeniable. The layout and perspective are fantastic and the simple color palette, again, gives us all of the feeling of bleak cold.  I like the “A” cover version better, but to each their own.

As a bonus, I’ve added another Batman-related cover from Grayson #1. It is a different take on the subject, but an equally as compelling one. Again, the spatial awareness and efficiency of line is apparent and the overall effect is quite striking. Here, we also get a taste of another Jock trademark… someone diving. Jock seems to like to draw people diving for some reason. He also really loves to draw bats. Lots of bats.

Anyhow, all of the above covers are cover price or less and should be very easy to find.

 

  1. The Wicked and the Divine #29 (2014 Series)

PUBLISHED: Image Comics – July, 2017

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

Just a stunning cover. This one is all about line. Simple, elegant line. Tiny splashes of color help this one pop, but this cover is all about the “less is more” school of art. Nothing else needs to be said. It is just an amazing standout cover from the series that can be had cheap, cheap, cheap. Technically it’s the “B” cover, but could be had for cover price on release day (and can still be had for cover or less).

 

  1. Reborn #1 (2016 Series)

PUBLISHED: Image Comics – October, 2016

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

The dichotomy of this cover is amazing. It is violent and shocking and beautiful all at the same time. There is a certain grace to this cover that makes the image of impending death look serene. Much like most excellent Jock covers, this one is about negative space, and color as much as it is about line and composition. There was a myriad of covers for this issue including a blank, an incentive 1:25 and multiple printings of cover “A.” All of the alternate covers were cover price on release day and this one can still be snagged for that.

 

***

 

Before I sign off, I leave you with a couple of REALLY cheap Jock variants. These are both undervalued, in my opinion, and are amazing examples of his work. Since they are variants and I like following my own rules, I didn’t want to actually do feature write-ups on them, but both of these can be gotten for under $10 and, at that price, they are a steal.

 

Daredevil #511 “Vampire Variant” (1964 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – December, 2010

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

Superman: American Alien #7 1:25 Incentive (2015 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 2016

ARTIST: Mark Simpson “JOCK”

 

With that, I leave you all to it. As always, please, sound off in the comments section, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

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