Thursday, April 18, 2013

From the HA Comics Newsletter: The Ten Best Comic Book Covers of All Time (According Me): Don Mangus

The Amazing Spider-Man #33 (Steve Ditko)
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Spider-Man was an oddball superhero — an alienated, gangly teenager, racked by adolescent guilt, angst, and self-doubt. This yarn found him tested to his breaking point — wedged beneath a colossal machine, drowning, even as his beloved Aunt May faced imminent death — in sore need of a rare medical isotope that Spidey will have to snatch back from the clutches of Doctor Octopus. Ditko's masterfully staged sequence — where the wall-crawler digs deep into his last ounce of resolve to hurl off his burden with a superhuman effort — remains the ultimate climactic moment of superhero storytelling.
Captain America Comics #1 (Jack Kirby and Joe Simon)
Few American comic books can claim to have the importance of this 1941 Timely Publications title. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America became the most successful of the many patriotic heroes to arise following the conflict in Europe involving Nazi Germany and the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan which resulted in World War II. The savvy Joe Simon once explained the inspiration behind this famous cover as follows: "There had never been a truly believable villain in comics. But Adolf was live, hated by more than half the world — I could smell a winner."
Detective Comics #69 (Jerry Robinson)
Bob Kane profited enormously from major big-league contributions by his talented associates. Indeed, Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger developed Batman's greatest arch-nemesis, that Harlequin of Hate — the Joker. Robinson's superior draftsmanship shines ever so brightly in this magical, Mort Meskin-influenced cover design.
Fantastic Four #1 (Jack Kirby)
Marvel comics was going down for the count when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee melded the appealingly monstrous with the anti-heroic, and sparked the Marvel Age of Heroes. The accomplished George Klein was a first-rate inker over both Jack Kirby at Marvel, and at DC, Curt Swan (on Superman). While other Marvel characters later became more popular, Kirby and Lee's FF laid the foundation for the revolution that followed. Some fans have noted striking compositional similarities between the covers of FF #1 and Brave and Bold #28 (the first JLA cover by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs, 1960) — well, it's hard to go wrong with a towering monster.

The Incredible Hulk #1 (Jack Kirby)
Monsters and heroes — every kid loves them. But what if the line between good and evil was blurred, and the monster was the hero? The Incredible Hulk shares many motifs with other bipolar pop culture "prototypes" such as Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster — and the gamma bomb-blast origin of the Incredible Hulk owes more than a little to the API fantasy film, "The Amazing Colossal Man" (1957). Kirby and Ditko's work on Marvel's many pre-hero "monster books" prepared them perfectly for the upcoming Marvel Age.
Marvel Mystery Comics #9 (Bill Everett and Alex Schomburg)
Even in the Golden Age, Timely/Marvel's superstars were half-monster, half-antihero — case in point — those two hellraisers, Namor, the Sub-Mariner and Dr. Phineas Horton's android, the Human Torch. Two opposing elements at war — fire vs. water — as depicted by two giants of Golden Age comic art — Bill Everett and Alex Schomburg — what could be more mythic?
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1 (Jim Steranko)
Magician, escape artist, and graphic designer Jim Steranko reinvigorated the kinesthetic "eyeball kicks" of four-color comics with his outrageous brand of "Zap Art" — a combination of hallucinatory surrealism, eye-popping op art, visual misdirections and puzzles, and existential, film-noir storytelling. Combining such disparate artistic influences as Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Bernie Krigstein, Richard Powers, Salvador Dali, Wally Wood, and others, Steranko blew comic readers' minds in the late sixties. Nick Fury was transformed from an anachronistic, cigar-chomping ex-Howler into a James Bond-Diabolik-styled, ultra-cool, super-super-sexy Cold Warrior.
Showcase #4 the Flash (Carmine Infantino)
Carmine Infantino's jet-age costume concept was perfect for the Silver Age Flash. It left Jay Garrick's old-fashioned Mercury-inspired uniform behind in its vapor trails. Joe Kubert "gilded the lilly," adding his expressive inks over Infantino's streamlined pencils. Although DC editor Julie Schwartz is celebrated for launching the Silver Age, I hasten to point out that it was super-scribe Robert Kanigher who actually wrote the first few critical scripts and concepts. Few fans realize he also conceived and designed the famous filmstrip cover concept. This project was DC's all-star team pulling together for one rare occasion on one seminal creation.
Showcase #57 (Joe Kubert)
Leave it to controversial DC writer editor Robert Kanigher to create one of the most outrageous concepts to hit the Silver Age war comics scene. A continuing feature spotlighting Hans Von Hammer, Enemy Ace, the autocratic and merciless cold-blooded Hammer of Hell who reigned over the Killer Skies of WWI. Joe Kubert's rimlit cover presents a chilling portrait of this cold-blooded Kanigher creation, who had only a feral wolf as his confederate. This cover showcases the legendary "K-K team" at its finest.
Superman #14 (Fred Ray)
The young Fred Ray was inspired by comic strip artist and illustrator Noel Sickles, and as a result, Ray created the most iconic and beautifully designed image ever of America's first superhero.
Don Mangus brings his experience as a published writer and former college-level Design, Drawing, and Painting instructor to his catalog descriptions in Comics and Illustration Art. He is an artist/cartoonist, with both a BFA and a MFA from Southern Methodist University. His articles on comic art have been published in Comic Book Artist, Robin Snyder's the Comics, and The Charlton Spotlight, as well as on numerous comics-related Web sites If you like Don's list, you can drop him an email at

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