Best Comic Book Covers of All Time: Joe Kubert’s LOSERS run

What makes a great comic book cover, in this age of virgin variants and gimmick covers, is the same thing that has always made a great cover. When all these flash in the pan virgin covers, are resigned to the 50 cent bin (where most of them belong), the really great covers, will still be… great covers.

They will still have stunning typography, married to great art, with great placement of the various parts, and together the whole, in one moment, both tells a story and sells a product. It is not just this lazy and brainless current fad of a pretty image, but with no context to the story or to the storytelling. Today’s cover artists and editors and art directors, and buyers, confuse a pinup with an effective and affecting cover, and the two are not the same.

Now that is not to say there are not exceptions, where the pinup is so good that you want it for eye candy’s sake alone. That does happen, and is fine, but in my experience it is rare, and is not conducive to books you are actually buying, serialized entertainment you are actually buying,… to read. In that case a pretty picture does not cut it, you need a storyteller as an artist and an art editor, to design a cover that tells a story.

And like i said it is a marriage of many things, some of which are not in the artist’s hands. But when all those disparate elements come together, you have have some of the greatest covers of all time.

There were a lot of people I could have started this new segment with, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson, Jack Kirby, but for my money the best cover artist of all time very rarely worked in Superhero Comics, and that is the great Joe Kubert.

Kubert had many magnificent cover runs to choose from but the one that launches this segment is the work of his that made me a Conflict Comics collector. His run on OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR. Not the whole run, because while he did hundreds of covers not all of them have the elements that make an iconic cover. I mentioned a great cover having to do with things sometimes beyond the artists control such as typography and placement of disparate elements on a cover. But Here, for this run of issues, Kubert had complete control over the typography of his covers, and completely integrated that typography into his artwork, in a manner that would have made Eisner impressed. Creating a brilliant image AND telling a story and selling a product.

In the 181 issue run of OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR, all of which had good covers,  there are nineteen covers that stand out as masterpieces… only nineteeneighteen. They are not ‘key’ issues, they are seminal issues in the history of comic book cover design. The following scans were the best I could find on short notice, and do not do the books justice. But they give you a taste of the brilliance that make these 19 consecutive issues of OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR a milestone of cover design, and worth owning.

They are…

 

Cover for Our Fighting Forces (DC, 1954 series) #123Cover for Our Fighting Forces (DC, 1954 series) #124  Our Fighting Forces #125 Cover for Our Fighting Forces (DC, 1954 series) #126Cover for Our Fighting Forces (DC, 1954 series) #127Our Fighting Forces #128  Cover for Our Fighting Forces (DC, 1954 series) #129File:Our Fighting Forces Vol 1 130.jpgFile:Our Fighting Forces Vol 1 135.jpg

 

Issue 142 would signal the end of the ground breaking covers, as well as heralding the end of Joe Kubert as editor on the series (his name would officially be removed as editor two issues later). Archie Goodwin would take over for a while as editor, followed by Jack Kirby(with all due respect to Jack Kirby, I am not a fan of his work on this book). And while Kubert would continue to do covers sporadically for the series up till the end, never again would the typography and mast-head be part of the story-telling. 141 would be the last of that wild imaginative experimentation with art and typography, the last of nineteen issues of the best and longest consecutive run of great covers by one creator in the history of comics. Pick them all up today, while they can still be had affordably.

 

Use the link below to get your issues today:

https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=180611&AffID=200301P01

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please subscribe, leave a like and comment. And what are your favorite cover runs, or cover artists/artwork?

Till next time… be well!!

Best Youtube Channel of the Day courtesy of Roku/Amazon Fire!

If you are not watching CEREAL AT MIDNIGHT you are missing out on one of the essential resources for movies on DVD and Bluray, especially of the classic B movie and cult status variety. CEREAL AT MIDNIGHT celebrates those works of yesteryear that are worth picking up, even in this age of streaming.

His latest episode, and he sold me on purchasing the UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION VOL 1 on Bluray.

Mostly because I am a huge fan of THE BLACK CAT. What is the BLACK CAT you ask? Well beyond being the name of the famous Edgar Allen Poe Short Story, it was also the impetus for many films of that name.

This 1934 Edgar G. Ulmer directed BLACK CAT (which only uses Poe’s story as a aesthetic, to  go places even Poe dared not) is the best of the half dozen or so feature films to use that title.

Powered by a lurid, and haunting, and maniacal story by Edgar G. Ulmer and Peter Ruric, the film grabs and does not let go. Ruric would never write anything as memorable or deranged or sublime again. Which leads me to believe even though the script is credited to Ruric, that it was Ulmer’s hand you see in it. 

 

Ulmer, an unfortunately little remembered director, was one of the best directors of the strange and the avant-garde (experimental, forward looking), and the disturbed. This film fits perfectly in his mold. And with the best combination of big time studio, large budget, iconic stars, talented craftsmen, that he would ever get, he produced his best movie.

BLACK CAT beyond being Ulmer’s best movie, is without argument the best of the Karloff and Lugosi collaborations, and is arguably the best UNIVERSAL movie, right up there with masterpieces such as BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE INVISIBLE MAN.

 

Ulmer’s BLACK CAT is so stylized, and so paired to the bone, that like the short story it derives its impetus for, it is entirely possessive of your attention and your awe. And even though I consider BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN a masterpiece, there is something even more heightened and hypnotic in Ulmer’s BLACK CAT.

The only real cinematic comparative to it, would be the feel you get from watching Erle C. Kenton’s ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, which predates BLACK CAT by two years. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, like BLACK CAT, was both acclaimed and vilified for its horror and its sexuality.

 

Both are films I consider seminal films, masterpieces of mood, and must own films. And i have owned both films for years in DVD, as generally speaking I do not see the need to upgrade to Blu-ray with these earlier 4:3 Black and White films. However with this new Blu ray also sporting multiple new commentaries, it is worth the double dipping for me.

If you are still deciding check out the video below, and subscribe to the CEREAL AT MIDNIGHT youtube channel… and tell them HT sent ya!

 

 

Currently Watching : DEAD SQUAD TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD

DEAD SQUAD: TEMPLE OF THE UNDEAD

25 minutes in and the jury is out on this one. I find it intriguing despite the annoying nature of most of the characters. The annoying, brain dead westerner character is one I can definitely do without. The film so far has not been great, a bit too campy and annoying, but I find myself interested in where the film is going. Interested in the shape of the doom they are getting closer to. And the Antagonist equally wears out his welcome.

However the practical effects and makeup are impressive, and how badass one of the characters is around the 40 minute mark keeps me watching when I was ready to write this one off.

I do not like Zombie/Ghoul films as a rule, but this one is different enough (especially the head monster) and truly deranged and yes campy enough, that you just have to be impressed by the absurd weirdness of it.

It becomes far more intriguing than I was initially thinking. Definitely not for everyone but for fans of Peter Jackson’s early horror films like BAD TASTE and DEAD ALIVE, despite my early doubts, Dominik Hauser’s DEAD SQUAD (his debut film) by the end, becomes an absolutely tremendous and fitting homage and evolution of those campy horror classics.

Try it yourself courtesy of Amazon Prime streaming. It is unfortunate movies like this are not getting a DVD/Blu-ray release with Director’s commentary. That’s how B films like this traditionally have endured. Preserved by collectors and fans. In the ephemeral world of streaming,controlled by cold dollars and cents, films like this can disappear without a whisper.

THE CINEMA OF STATUES : The Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder


“He was a personable looking man. First your eye said he’s not young anymore, he’s not a boy anymore. Then your eye said : he’s not old. There was something of youth hovering over and about him, and yet refusing to land in any one particular place… In short the impression was agelessness. Not young, not old, not callous, not mature – but ageless. Thirty Six looking fifty six, or fifty six looking thirty six, but which it was you could not say.”

FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE by Cornell Woolrich

woolrichspeaktome


Have you ever watched a film, and mere moments into it been so captured by its construction, its strangeness, and its audacity that it earns a spot in your pantheon, your metaphoric showcase of worthy things? I’m guessing the answer for some of us is yes. I say some, because the strange, by its very nature, will not be the cup of tea of everyone.

MARTHA based on a Cornell Woolrich story “FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE” was my first introduction to the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and what an introduction. I’ve been a huge devotee and fan of all things Cornell Woolrich since discovering his pulp fiction a few years ago. I own and have read a ton of Woolrich stories and novels. When I heard about this movie based (illegally it seems) on one of his stories, I had to try it.

martha

And MARTHA finally seen, I was blown away by the strange, nearly alien craft and audacity of that film, and that led me by fits and starts to today’s review of Fassbinder’s WORLD ON A WIRE.

I’ve watched movies all my life, I consider myself well informed when it comes to cinema. I’ve seen all the great genres, and most of the great directors. I can speak to you about German Expressionism, Film Noir, French New Wave, Italian Neo-realism, the Pan-African and Post-Colonialism movements. I can talk to you about blockbusters and straight to VOD masterpieces. And when you have seen as many films as I have, to get me through a movie these days… you have to either a/tell the familiar in a captivating way, or b/create something vibrant and unfamiliar.

Most movies and all Blockbusters are the former, they are variations on types of movies and a thematic structure that we have seen time and time again, since the dawn of cinema; what makes them successful is the ability to do the ‘rescuing the girl from the train track’ in a fresh and innovative way.

fassbinder2

Much rarer is the latter, films and filmmakers that fundamentally challenge and expand are definitions of the scope and pathways of cinema.

I’ve seen two of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films all the way through, and both of them have struck me that way. Now admittedly they are from phase 1 of the three loosely defined phases of his career. Phase 2 being his Melodramatic phase, Phase 3 being that melodrama morphed into his identity films, dealing with themes of national, sexual, and familial identities in collusion and in conflict. (for more on this and for an overview on the films of Fassbinder please see the excellent Film.com article by Daniel Walber here!)

Phase 1 is arguably his most experimental and innovative films, here you’ll find the genre infused stuff, tinged with film-noir, horror and scifi trappings, the genres that I enjoy. Pro-active genres. I find myself generally not the audience for his phase 2 or 3 films, I’m not a fan of melodrama or just statement films. But with most of these later films not yet tried, I’m open to being pleasantly surprised.

But Phase 1, his cinema of statues and stylization, static but wonderfully composed frames, filled with actors who are at times more statues than men, and when they are animated it is often in very jerky, stilted ways. His women, leading ladies, are variations on a theme, big eyed, statuesque but often emaciated to the point of boniness, strawberry blonds, odd beauty bordering on the antithesis of beauty, mannequins and masks, and a wonderful use of angles and reflections.

worldonawire

In pieces the movies should not work, stilted, unnatural performances, what is generally considered signs of amateurish or bad acting. However in WORLD ON A WIRE (WELT AM DRAHT, 1973), that ugliness and unease, the uncomfortable pauses, the shots held too long, the awkward pacing, inappropriate and at times overbearing use of music, things we typically identify with bad films and bad filmmakers, in these two films of Fassbinder all these flaws are stylistic choices and become instead function, negating themselves and becoming calling cards of a fundamentally different definition of cinema.

WORLD ON A WIRE, which virtually nobody talks about, is this outrageous and ambitious and way long mini-series of a movie, equal parts science fiction, mystery, and avant-garde film, that has this incredibly intriguing and prophetic premise about a world in which they create not just an artificial intelligence, but an artificial world peopled with artificial intelligences.

WeltAmDraht_Poster

The intelligences are programed to be perfect representations of people, and have a based in time and motion relation to each other, and capable of sex and love and procreation. So an AI universe that is self propagating, and more predictive, as the world is designed to be on a 20 year curve, so the shopping habits and economic changes and housing changes and conflicts that occur in the artificial world today, will be predictive of what happens in our world in 20 years.

It’s a brilliant, mind blowing concept, that you’ll find in better science fiction stories, but not in movies; particularly not in movies of the period, the early 1970s. On top of which the AI universe is viewable and interact-able by means of downloading someone into one of the AI inhabitants of the AI world. What??? That is mind blowingly brilliant and audacious premise for a film, even today in 2016 in an age of avatars, much less for a film made nearly 50 years ago.

And all of that, is not even what the movie is mostly about: it’s a film-noir movie. With a scientist trying to get to the bottom of his coworker’s disappearance. And then there is all the Fassbinder weirdness going on this movie, that just adds yet another level to the movie.

world_on_a_wire_2

The doll like women who never seem to blink, random moments of strangeness, [a party scene, where people seem not to move, and the few who do, do the same movements over and over again. A scientist called into his bosses office for serious conversation which they have while not looking at each other and spinning in circles in their chair. a night club with mostly nude attractive Black Men and women dancing while the clothed patrons walk past feeling them up… it is just craziness that comes out of nowhere, but all of it leaves you gobsmaked and off-kilter and not knowing what is coming next.} And it’s not comedy, Fassbinder isn’t just taking the piss or going for laughs here, he is telling a straight story, but he is using a crooked path, fueled by dream logic, he wants the delivery not to be what you are expecting and in WORLD ON A WIRE he succeeds.

Fassbinder, very much the spiritual predecessor to later avant garde filmmakers such as David Lynch and Lars Von Trier, was a young maverick director who died way before his time at the age of 37, however in less than a score of years (before his untimely departure) he would make 44 films, 39 of those being feature films. It is a staggering body of work to have produced by the age of 37. How many of us will ever make one film, much less 44 of them. And to make such across the board unique films, love them or hate them, is a great testament to someone who obviously ate, drank and slept cinema.

600full-rainer-werner-fassbinder Image courtesy of film.com

I can see people not liking or dismissing Fassbinder’s 3+ hour Sci-Fi epic as just flawed. And it is flawed, like I said previously, Fassbinder likes the mistakes, the mistakes of time, mistakes of gender, mistakes of intention, mistakes of moment, and out of all these mistakes with WORLD ON A WIRE he makes, at least for me, something composed of the old, that feels endlessly new.

Welt_am_Draht_05

Grade: B+. It is definitely not for everybody, but if you like directors who are creative with cinematography (not just 360 degree shots but 540 degree shots), adventuresome in storytelling, and loyal to their actors (Fassbinder works with the same actors repeatedly, including actors of color, such as El Hedi ben Salem, rarely done for the period, and still too little done today) then this is a film for you. Recommended.

The Fassbinder Collection Two – MARTHA

World on a Wire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Speak to Me of Death: The Selected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich, Volume 1 (Collected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich)

2013: DAY 48 – FIVE BEST CLASSIC MOVIE SERIALS!

2013: DAY 48 – FIVE BEST CLASSIC MOVIE SERIALS!

Well one of my passions in these first 50 days of the new year, has been classic movie serials. The inspiration for filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, to name a prominent two, movie serials were the pre-television answer to moving pictures’ sequential entertainment. Inspiration for films such as STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES.

raidersofthelostarkpolish

Unlike a standard big budget film,that offered a big complete story, the serials were about giving viewers bite-sized and tasty morsels of thrills and adrenalin inducing entertainment to keep viewers coming to the local movie-house on a weekly basis. And the hallmark of the serial’s formula of thrills was the cliffhanger. A formula that has only relatively recently been put to good effect on television in shows such as 24 and BREAKING BAD.

breakingbad2

But to see this formula at its best you have to experience it via the best of classic movie serials. Unfortunately given the formulaic nature of serials, and the challenges of strict deadlines, and limited budgets, movie serials could often fall into the rut of inane writing, insipid direction and repetitive and sloppy cliffhangers.

The majority of serials I have so far tried, fall victim to the foibles outlined above. However five that do not, that stand out as GREAT serials of the 20th century, that I find incredibly entertaining being introduced to them here in the 21st, are….

captainmarvelserial

ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL -Wow. Just wow. This is not your father’s Superman. This dude has no compunction about killing bad guys. And it is just a plain entertaining thrill ride.

SPY-SMASHER- Add World War II, A masked crimefighter against the Axis, and add some of the best fight scenes and most energetic cliffhangers and you have this serial. The best of the best.

MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR SATAN- How cool is this villain? So cool that he gets top billing in this serial over the costumed hero?!! A great serial.

callofthesavageserial

THE CALL OF THE SAVAGE- Tarzan eat your heart out! Some jaw dropping animal stock footage highlights a fun serial that imagines a different kind of jungle boy. Fun and entertaining with great cliffhangers!

flashgordon

FLASH GORDON:SPACE SOLDIERS- The original 1936 serial (originally just called FLASH GORDON, followed by two sequels the 1938 MISSION TO MARS, and the 1940 FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE) has everything that later versions aspired to but never quite achieved. It is imaginative, fun, audacious, manic, sexy, thrilling and generally balls to the wall good.

Despite the limitations of the day as it relates to special effects, men in suits, lizards with bits added to stand in as dinosaurs, wobbly ships on strings, this serial has something that transcends all these glaring flaws, it is just popcorn chewingly fun! With Flash and his compatriots racing from one hair-raising, adrenaline inducing adventure after another. A combination of insanely imaginative and compelling writing, married to breakneck direction, and whole-heartedly embraced performances adds up to a whole that transcends the admittedly suspect sum of its parts.

And did I mention sexy? Flash at any given time has at least three gorgeous and scantily clad females vying for his attention. The most gorgeous of who appears but briefly in the abode of the Shark Men. Latin and clad in white, you’ll know her when you see her.

And getting back to the jab about men in suits. This serial has one of the scariest men in a monkey suit ever put to film! (and I’ve seen my share!:)) It really is awesomely impressive, and a hugely thrilling and memorable cliffhanger. If there was an academy award given for monkey acting, this guy should have got it. :).

All in all, I have to say one of the best things I’ve seen in this two thousand and thirteenth year of our lord, is this throwaway weekly serial from 73 years ago!! I highly recommend it!

So there you go. In no particular order five of the greatest movie serials ever!

These 12 to 15 part serials are some of the best examples of a medium, of a type of cinematic entertainment that the ascension of the age of television in the 50s brought to an end. However, much like Old Time Radio of the same period,the late 30s to the early 50s, these shows may be past, but thanks to the digital age they are not forgotten and more… are readily available (if you know where to look) so the lucky newcomer is able to sample these treasures of a bygone age at their leisure.

Sample yours today… here:

Flash Gordon: Box Set (Space Soldiers/Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars/Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe) (3DVD)

Adventures of Captain Marvel

WEDNESDAYS WORDS

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

This is a rare one item WEDNESDAYS WORDS and the latest I’ve ever put one together, but put it together I did. Enjoy!

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson [Hardcover]


Book Description
Publication Date: September 13, 2011 | Series: Creepy Presents
All of horror legend Bernie Wrightson’s Creepy and Eerie short stories, color illustrations, and frontispieces are finally collected in one deluxe hardcover! These classic tales from the 1970s and early 1980s include collaborations with fellow superstars and Warren Publishing alumni Bruce Jones, Carmine Infantino, Howard Chaykin, and others, as well as several adaptations and original stories written and drawn by Wrightson during one of the most fruitful periods of his career! All stories and images in this collection are restored with care and reprinted in the same oversized format as Dark Horse’s award-winning Creepy Archives and Eerie Archives series.

As far as one book recommendations go, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than CREEPY PRESENTS BERNIE WRIGHTSON! First the hardcover book, which I’m perusing, in between writing this post, smells great.

I know that sounds like an odd statement, especially to all you digital i-something babies, but for those of us raised and reared on paper and ink, there are few things as evocative as the new book smell.:)

Add to that the fact that DARK HORSE who published this book, publishes really high quality books, and you have something special as much for construct as content. Something that can not be effectively… digitized.

So despite being printed in China, DARK HORSE is very quality-conscious and demanding… and it shows in the finished product. It’s a gorgeous art compilation book, containing the best art and stories from Wrightson’s time at Warren Publishing!

And lastly it’s Bernie Wrightson, one of the most celebrated sequential artists of the late 20th century; and here in the 21st, his work still remains… unrivaled.

While this book is no FRANKENSTEIN BY WRIGHTSON (Also Published by DARK HORSE, and copies getting scarcer and more expensive every day), it is vintage WRIGHTSON and as such most definitely should be an essential part of anyone’s desert island survival bag!

And at the current ridiculously low price you would have to be an unhinged art-hater, not to own a copy.

So there! Go here for more and to get your copy if so moved to:

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein


The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.

Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

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