Sunday, July 29, 2012

Comic Cover as Comic Page

In the days at Marvel, before Jack Kirby brought the company back from the brink of destruction by introducing superheroes into the mix, it was a fairly common practice to use a certain cover style. Sometimes the artists would create a cover that was produced in a panelized illustration, almost as if the cover were a miniature comic story all its own. This was effective in whetting the appetite of the prospective buyer and getting that reader to pick up the book to continue the story. It must have been relatively successful it creating sales, because both Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko would create such covers from time to time. Lee and Goodman must have approved, because it was almost a trademark at the company. Perhaps they even encouraged it, the way Julie Schwartz encouraged gorilla covers at DC when it was noticed that covers featuring talking gorillas tended to sell out.

This cover is from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4. It's not the last time this kind of panelized cover was used on an early Marvel Comic, but it is one of the most extreme examples of such on a title after superheroes had taken over the company. Ditko referred to this form a few times afterward, but never again in just such a manner.

The cover to this book is one of the most recognizable of the early issues of Spider-Man. And I think it must have sold very well, because it's one of the most common issues that I would run across in my days as a dealer of back issue comic books. It was rare that I didn't have at least one copy of this issue in my back-issue stock. So the cover art obviously did its job. Why Marvel's artists trended away from it I cannot say. Perhaps they hit a point at which they began to look upon it as dated and archaic. I don't know.

My personal copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #4. What a great villain Ditko created in The Sandman!


Mark Gelbart said...

My favorite Spidey villain was Mysterio, the guy who had gadgets specifically designed to nullify Spiderman's powers.

I always thought the character was a clever idea.

HemlockMan said...

Mysterio was a good villain. Classic Ditko archetype. He was another one used once as a mystery-villain-in-disguise. This was a unique move on Ditko's part wherein he would have a villain unmasked to be...a previously introduced villain!

Kirk G said...

Another superhero example of this practice was Tales to Astonish #45 where Antman suddenly ages right before our eyes, panel after panel.

HemlockMan said...

That would be TTA #43. And it's a classic cover type from pre-hero Marvel that bled over into the superhero days. For a brief time.

I've always wondered if this was a type of cover favored for a while by Jack Kirby, or if it was an editorial request made by Stan Lee of his principle cover artists at the time.