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Comic Theme Month – Best Cover Artist of the 1940s

All December long, I will be doing daily installments of Comic Theme Time. Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

Today’s topic is a “Who do you think was the best cover artist of the 1940s?”

Read on to see what I’m looking for specifically, along with some examples to get you started…

You have plenty to choose from, including some lesser known names (well, at least nowadays) like…

Fred Ray…

Jack Burnley…

Alex Schomburg….

And plenty of famous names like…

Jack Kirby…

Will Eisner…

Dick Sprang…

And many many more (Win Mortimer, Bob Kane, Joe Shuster, Jerry Robinson, Jim Mooney, Mac Raboy, Irv Novick, Syd Shores, the list is quite literally endless)!

Who’s your pick for the best?

33 Comments

I’ve always thought that Mac Raboy’s Captain Marvel Jr. covers are objects of complete and utter beauty.

I’m torn between Burnley, Schomburg and Eisner, especially the first two.

I absolutely love king Kirby, but to be fair in the 40s he hadn’t polished his style yet, and his covers were still not as strong as they would become in later decades.

And that Jak Burnley Superman cover? That is EPIC. That’s a fun side of Superman that isn’t properly explored nowadays: the unstoppable force that makes bad guys yell “OOH SHI-”

Sterg, you’re absolutely right! Mac Raboy can’t be out of this race.

I’m going to say Jack Cole.

Schomburg was the acknowledged Marvel master. He was to 40s Marvel what Neal Adams was to DC in the late 60s/early 70s – the go-to guy for a good (frequently superb) cover.

Burnley, Raboy and Eisner were special, while recently-departed Jerry Robinson was a superb designer who really helped early Batman covers to shine. A lot of early Golden Age art was crude – mind you production technology was so primitive compared to today I guess it’s not a fair comparison – but these artists could hold up in any company.

LB Cole was around in the 40s, wasn’t he? I’ve seen some LB horror covers and those were mind-blowing.

Matt Baker was already doing covers in the 1940s wasn’t he? I’m pretty sure that’s the case, so I’ll go with him…

“the list is quite literally endless”

Pedantic tut-tutting for misuse of “literally”.

The list must have an end, as there are a finite number of people who drew comic book covers in the 1940′s.

‘And that Jak Burnley Superman cover? That is EPIC. That’s a fun side of Superman that isn’t properly explored nowadays: the unstoppable force that makes bad guys yell “OOH SHI-”’

QFT. I wish we’d get more covers like that, whether it’s for Superman or any other character. All fine that showing the hero in jeopardy creates tension and antici – wait for it – pation, but there’s something that’s even more awesome in seeing the hero with a mad-on, gunning for the villain.

Then again, there’s also Carl Barks. Not to mention John Stanley, Walt Kelly, C.C. Beck, Dan DeCarlo…

Count me for Mac Raboy too. And, granted that the style was “good girl art,” Matt Baker was a superb draftsman with a strong sense of layout.

Then again, there’s also Carl Barks.

What were Barks’ best 1940s covers?

Came here to mention Matt Baker, but it looks like a couple people beat me to it!

Schomberg’s my favorite, but I love Raboy too.

Re: 1940s Barks covers

The Mummy’s Ring and Terror on the River are two of my favorites.
I’ve never really thought about the the fact that they are both essentially horror covers.

What were Barks’ best 1940s covers?

That’s a good question, because they weren’t credited at the time. There were a lot of great Donald covers in both Four Color and Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories that I *think* are Barks, but they’re unsigned because that’s how Disney rolled.

http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/walt-disneys-comics-and-stories/2
http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/four-color/5

Actually, judging from google, the covers I remember were both from later printings of those stories. The original covers from Four Color were pretty unremarkable.

jack cole, basil wolverton, lou fine & bill everett come to mind

man, do i love wolverton
http://atomic-pulp.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

Burnley and Raboy for my money, hands-down.

I always thought Carl Barks’s covers were his weak point. They weren’t as good as his interiors most of the time…

Mac Raboy’s covers were the most beautiful, but Schomburg’s had far more energy (even today is hard to find covers as straiking as his!) and Eisner’s were more creative. I can’t put one over another!

But, hey, there were great cover artists in Belgium too! Here are some cool Edgar P. Jacobs covers from the period (image quality could be better, I know):
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1947&numero=15&menu=21&menu_id=83
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1947&numero=47&menu=21&menu_id=83
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1947&numero=20&menu=21&menu_id=83
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1948&numero=32&menu=21&menu_id=84

Paul Cuvelier wasn’t too shabby either:
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1947&numero=18&menu=21&menu_id=83

Jacques Martin was still young and green, but what his covers lacked in polish they had in impact:
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1948&numero=48&menu=21&menu_id=84

And Hergé himself was, of course, amazing:
http://lejournaldetintin.free.fr/affiche.php?action=detail&asso=1&annee=1948&numero=50&menu=21&menu_id=84

Most other european comic books of the time lacked covers, using the cover space to place another strip (much like the newspaper sunday comic suplements that inspired them), Tintin being a rare exception.

count me among the Raboy fans here! he was a freak.

I’m going to say Jack Kirby, just because I haven’t heard of any of the others (except Will Eisner, but I’ve never read his work). Honestly, I’ve only ever read 2 or 3 golden age comics. I do find it a little difficult to read these comics. Some things like the racial attitudes of the era are cringe-worthy. For me the fun starts at the Silver Age (the Silver Age is by no means perfect but it’s less of a shock to a 21st century man like me).

I always had a fondness for Green Lantern (or All-Star Comics) covers by Paul Reinman or Irwin Hasen. They may not be in the same league as Will Eisner, Jack Cole or Mac Raboy, but they should be mentioned as well.

Walt Kelly’s covers from this period were unbelievably gorgeous. WDC&S, his Mother Goose books, Fairy Tale Parade, it just goes on and on…

Was Frank Frazetta doing covers in the 40s? If so I’m sure he deserves a place on the list.

Was Frank Frazetta doing covers in the 40s? If so I’m sure he deserves a place on the list.

Not really. His cover work really began in the 1950s.

“I’m going to say Jack Kirby because I can’t be bothered to look at pictures.”

Did Creig Flessel (sp?) do covers in the ’40s? I’ve seen some of his interior work, I think, and it’s very nice looking.

Ah – I’ll let you off then ;)

I never thought Jack Kirby would have been a particular influence of David Lloyd’s, but that shot of bucky on the Captain America cover looks really David Lloydesque

I’m an LB Cole fan myself. He’s a 40-50′s guy. But Alex Schomburg or Wally Wood would have to get a nod too…

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