ISSUE #64: DC’s Magic Garden
Welcome back, my fellow hunters, to another edition of Cover Tunes. Con season is in full swing and the last two weeks have been spec heaven for Wednesday Warriors. All-in-all, comic life is pretty sweet at the moment. I’ll be attending Fanboy Expo for in Knoxville the first time, this coming weekend. So, stay tuned for more info on that, coming soon.
This week, I’d like to turn focus onto two characters from DC that very few people ever talk about: Rose & Thorne and Black Orchid. Both characters have seen multiple versions over the eras and, as such, I think many people are confused by them and largely ignore them both. However, I feel that both characters could see some near-future resurgence.
Rose & Thorne has already just seen a bit of a pop over the past few weeks due to the appearance of a new version of the character in Action Comics #1012.
For Black Orchid, since Neil Gaiman was instrumental in the “rebirth” of the character in 1988, she might find her way into the upcoming Sandman show on Netflix. The characters have crossed in comics before and I could see her as an interesting tie between Swamp Thing and Sandman. Just a hunch, but one that could pan out.
A huge shout-out and thank you to my bud John (a local hunter friend of mine) who helped me sift through the Rose and Thorn covers, this week.
With that, let’s get into this week’s picks, shall we…
ROSE AND THORN
(If you just want the covers, please, skip down)
This character has seen four major incarnations over the ages.
- The Golden Age version (Rose Canton, introduced in Flash Comics #89 in 1947) had a childhood imaginary friend named Thorn that she used to blame for the bad things she did. Later in life, that developed into a sort of Jekyll and Hyde dual personality; the “good” version being Rose and the “bad” version being Thorn. When, as a biologist, she was exposed to some crazy jungle root sap, she developed the power to manipulate plants.
- The second version of the character (Rhosyn “Rose” Lynn Forrest, introduced in Lois Lane #105 in 1970) was similar to the first in that she had dual personality; the good one (Rose) by day and the bad one (Thorn) after she went to “sleep.” This version did not have any supernatural powers, but was heavily trained in martial arts by her father who’s murder she continually attempts to avenge. Later (prior to New52), it is revealed that the character has more than just two personalities. Notably, she also has the personas of “Mom” and “Wild Rose.”
- The third “New52” version of the character has a similar backstory, but is now a teenager who discovers her split personality.
- The newest, fourth, version is the one that just popped up in Action Comics #1012. We will have to wait to see where this version goes. The character has a ton of potential and, if taken in the correct direction, could turn out to be amazing.
Either way, a compelling character that has had some great covers (along with a myriad of poor ones). Let’s see a few of the gems…
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – September, 1971
ARTIST: Dick Giordano
I used to know Dick Giordano. He used to live down the street from me during the years where he was heavily involved with the Vertigo imprint at DC. We used to stand outside in his driveway and talk about comics. He was incredibly gracious to the 12-year-old version of me (even though in hindsight I was probably badgering him) and he’d read my stories and give me advice on them. I never asked him to draw me anything or sign anything (which is probably why he continued to talk to me… ha!), but it was during the time where comics were really beginning to influence me. Giordano had a lot to do with that excitement. As such, I’m really thrilled to be able to feature one of his covers, here, as I think he may be one of the most overlooked Silver/Bronze Age artists.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – April, 2005
ARTIST: Ed Benes
Here’s a sexy one… I don’t generally go in for team covers, but this one is really sexy. Huntress steals the show on this one a little by showing us her “best side,” but Thorn and Canary ain’t too shabby, either. This cover has a great layout and even though there are a lot of “things” on it, we aren’t too distracted by them. Each character has room to shine (literally and figuratively). Regardless, this is a dollar bin book and should be relatively easy to find.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 2004
ARTIST: Adam Hughes
Man, this is a creepy cover. All of the six Hughes issues have incredible covers and this is arguably Hughes’ best era for art, but this one is a stand-out. The cover pretty much speaks for itself in that it shows the “horror” aspect of the character in stark reality. The reflection in the water is a clever touch as well. Even though this is a relatively simple cover, it says a lot. This one and its other five counterparts aren’t that easy to find given lower print runs and the rabid nature of Hughes fans. However, when it does pop up, it won’t (or shouldn’t) ever cost you more than $10.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 2012
ARTIST: Ryan Sook
This cover, while not as instantly compelling as the prior three, has the advantage of telling a lot of story in one shot. This is something very few modern covers do well. In one glimpse, we get a fairly decent idea of the character in a clean and polished piece of cover art from Sook who has developed a good modern following, of late. This is a dollar bin book at the moment and shouldn’t run more than $5, ever.
(If you just want the covers, please, skip down)
Black Orchid is a little more straightforward than Rose and Thorn in that she really has only been introduced twice and she is continually essentially the same character throughout the eras. First appearing in Adventure Comics #428 in 1973 (as Linden-Thorne… no, not the Thorn from Rose and Thorn… just coincidence) and running through various issues of that title as well as in back-up stories in Phantom Stranger, the character was always known for not really having an origin. However, that changed when Neil Gaimen wrote her 1988 mini-series and gave a back-story as Suzy/Black. That later turned into her full name, Susan “Suzy” Linden-Thorne.
A version of the character pops up in 2012 version of Justice League Dark as Alba Garcia, but that version was short-lived.
The synergy this character could have in a theoretical DC TV universe on Netflix (with such shows as Sandman and Lucifer and, if they choose to pick it up, Swamp Thing) is intriguing and could, therefore, have her seeing some future spec potential. She has sometimes popped up as a secondary Suicide Squad member but, more importantly, has crossed over with Blue Devil, Phantom Stranger and Madame Xanadu who all play important roles in the Swamp Thing show. I’d be surprised if DC ignores this character moving forward with whatever they have planned for television.
Stemming from her being a Human/Plant hybrid, the character has a variety of abilities including flight, super-strength and a magic connection to the plant world through “The Green” (much like Swamp Thing). However, her ability to blend in, reincarnate and disguise herself is really the most interesting aspect of the character.
Here a couple of my favorite Black Orchid covers…
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November/December, 1973
ARTIST: Bob Oksner
Honestly, I could have actually gone with Black Orchid’s first appearance from two issues prior (#428) since it still goes so cheaply. It is the best cover for her, however, I really do try to follow my own rules and not use keys in this column. All three Oksner covers from #428, #429 and #430 are great and it is a shame that there aren’t more of them. The graceful lines of the character are on display on all three covers as is a deep sense of perspective. The visual natures of all three covers are very much in the vein of DC’s Bronze Age horror covers and, as such, I am even more drawn to them as a result. This little run will be the one to have if this character ever pops up again. Right now, they are all really cheap and it is a great time to buy.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 1988
ARTIST: Dave McKean
Just a gorgeous painted rendition of the character from Dave McKean, here. In fact, he accomplished all of the fully-painted interiors, as well. This, of course, being an earlier and more straightforward piece from McKean prior to his use of still-life photography, decoupage and sculptured covers that graced his later work (still cool, just different). The character is shown here in all of her elegance and grace. Even though I was never a huge fan of the half cover thing, this composition transcends that and still crushes. This has almost always been a $5 or less find and still is. All three covers from this mini series are fantastic and it is a really cool read, too, because… well… Gaiman. In this series, Black Orchid is finally given a back story and, as such, while not considered a key, is very important.
And with that, I leave you for yet another week, I hope you enjoyed this one. I tried to get a little something in there for everyone. These two characters have a lot of potential and I hope DC chooses to use them well in the future. So, until next week, thanks as always for reading, be well and happy hunting.