COVER STORIES for 12/04/2005
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #30
Welcome to this 30th edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
This time around, the theme I've chosen is, "Snakes... why did it have to be snakes?" Doubtless you'll recognize where the line came from, eh?
So, snakes! Snakes are a great visual shortcut to use on comics covers... there's an immediate sense of danger when you see them (even when they're not drawn zoologically correct). Most people have an innate fear of snakes (spiders, too, but that's a theme for another time), and the bigger they are, the scarier they are!
Here's a relatively generic cover from Adventure Comics, before the long underwear set took over. Adventure's covers from this era were full of high adventure stuff, and the "explorer in the jungle" was used as the basis for lots of comics from this time! Here we see a Great White Hunter dealing with an extraordinarily large boa constrictor... or is it an anaconda? Truth to tell, it almost looks as much like Cecil the Sea-Sick Serpent as any real snake, doesn't it? (Wow, I wonder how many of you I lost with that reference?)
Anyway, this issue, cover-dated March, 1939, featured this cover by Craig Flessel (one of DC's Golden Age Greats, if you ask me). Vince Sullivan edited this issue, which featured the following stories: Barry O'Neill in "Fang Gow of China: Part 34" by Ed Winarski, Cotton Carver in "The White Warriors" by Gardner Fox and Geoff Newman, Federal Men in "On The Wrong Side of the Law: Part 5," by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Tod Hunter in "The God of the Ruby Eye: Part 9," by Jim Chambers, Don Coyote in "In Arabia: Part 4," by Stockton (no first name listed in the GCD), Dale Daring in "The Plantation Uprising: Part 5" by Will Ely, Butch the Pup in a filler by Stockton, Captain Desmo in "Hidden Paradise: Part 1" by Ed Winarski, the text story "Stowaway" by Jack Anthony, Tom Brent in "The Shai Poa Necklace" by Jim Chambers, the Golden Dragon by Tim Hickey, Rusty and His Pals in "The Pirate Ship: Part 11" by Bob Kane, and El Diablo (not to be confused with the more modern characters using that name) in "Anchors Aweigh!" by Fred Guardineer!
Wow, that's a pretty impressive line-up of creators, even if their best-known work was some years away, eh?
Moving on... here's a cobra featured on the rather aptly-named All Top Comics!
All Top is one of those magazines that is of interest, I'd imagine, mostly to collectors of "good girl art," because there's nary an issue that doesn't feature beautiful, buxom, scantily-clad women on it... and this one is no exception! Ad the cobra about to strike, and you've got sales gold, I'm guessing!
Or maybe not. This July 1949 issue, #18, was the last issue of this Fox Comics publication. The cover features a character named Dagar, no relation to the later Gold Key character, I'm certain! The cover's uncredited in the GCD. Inside this issue, you'll find their usual cover girl, Rulah, in a story credited to Matt Baker, Jo-Jo (also by Baker), Dagar (also by Baker) - Dagar had his own comic, by the way, named "Dagar, Desert Hawk" - and the biographical piece Fish Eye Fay, which is unidentified. I should point out that the Baker credit appears to be a "best guess" choice by the indexers of this book.
Keeping in the Golden Age, let's move on to a book we're all more familiar with!
Ah, Captain America, the star-spangled sentinel of World War II! And his young pal, Bucky! Fighting the forces of Nazism wherever they may lurk... and this time around, they're apparently in the middle east! Once again, someone's being menaced with a nasty-looking reptilian critter, but I'm certain that Bucky's got nothing to worry about.
This September, 1943 issue of Captain America featured a cover by Syd Shores, and while he was no Simon and Kirby, he certainly wasn't any slouch, was he?
Captain America was featured inside in "The House of the Laughing Death" by Syd Shores, "The Curse of the Yellow Scourge" by Syd Shores with inks by Vince Alascia (who would later end up at Charlton, usually inking Charles Nicholas), and "The Saboteur of Death," by Syd Shores. As a bonus (even though it wasn't mentioned on the cover), there's also a Human Torch story, "The Nazi Cleaver," by Al Fagaly and Al Bellman, plus a text feature, "The Blackout Detective." As has been pointed out in Alter Ego and elsewhere, during the Golden Age, just about every headlining character tended to appear in a story in someone else's book at one time or another (although more often, it would be a Torch story in Sub-Mariner, and a Namor story in the firebug's book).
So... had enough Golden Age Comics for one week? Well, I'm guessing no... but let's move on, anyway.
OK, in one sense, we're still dealing with the golden age here... Jungle Stories began as a reprint book from Marvel, reprinting golden age stories featuring the likes of (as mentioned on the cover) Tharn, Lorna the Jungle Girl, and Jann of the Jungle (Jann, some of you may recall, actually was featured, albeit altered, on Saturday morning cartoons, as part of the Godzilla Power Hour!). Eventually, the Black Panther was featured in new stories in this title (although originally, there were still some reprints to be found). I believe this book came out about the same time DC had their version of Tarzan on the stands... and of course, Marvel had their own Ka-Zar carving out his piece of the marketplace.
Believe it or not, the cover for this issue of Jungle Action, featuring the most realistic snake presented in this week's column, was done by the incomparable Jim Starlin, still a little ways from his prime work, but still darn good! Frank Giacoia inked it.
Inside, the book featured Tharn in "Elephant Charge" from the first series of Jungle Action, in 1955, by Don Rico and Joe Maneely, Lorna in "The Devil's Lagoon" from her own 1953 comic, issue #4 to be exact, Unknown Jungle featuring "Challenge of the Pit" from Jungle Tales #1, by Paul Hodge, and Jann in "Rampage," by Don Rico and Art Petty, from Jungle Tales #1.
I have no idea whether or not a giant snake is featured in "Elephant Charge" or not... but it makes for a compelling cover, doesn't it?
If you decide you want to check out some of the reprint issues of Jungle Action, let me give you a tip... over the years, I've acquired a number of these, and I didn't pay nearly the kind of prices you see them offered for on eBay! Nope, I picked up my issues in quarter or fifty cent boxes at comics shows... and if you want some good, cheap comics readin', check those boxes out! Just wait until after I've gone through them, okay?
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !