Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dr. Strangelove Covers

Anyone who has ever flipped through an Overstreet has noticed that certain thematic covers are noted as collectors try to scoop up all of the Infinity Covers (my personal fave) or Christmas covers that they can find.

Lately, I been spotting certain certain trends in comic book covers that are just a little more obscure. Nothing quite like Scott Shaw!'s 'Fish in Face' covers, but still a little off the beaten path. One that I've seen more than a few times, is what I'll call a Dr. Strangelove cover, as a nod to the famous Slim Pickens scene at the end of Kubrick's classic film. Of course, all of these covers predate the movie, but that really neither here nor there.

For a while, during the Golden Age, it was apparently very au currant to draw a superhero straddling a giant rocket, atomic or otherwise. I am not sure if Dr. Wertham even had much to say about this, but it seems to be one of the more Freudian of all comic book cover themes. Let's take a look at a few examples.

The most famous of these is likely Special Edition Comics #1, which was recently redrawn by Joe Simon for an Overstreet Price Guide cover. We are not entirely sure what the Big Red Cheese is doing with this particular projectile, but he's obviously elated. In and of itself, this is a very tough to find and valuable comic, and will only skyrocket in price after the Dr. Strangelove cover genre takes off. If you can tell me exactly what type of bomb that Cap is riding, it means you've been spending too much time on artillery websites.

Sticking with Fawcett, we find another member of the Fawcett family taking a ride on a WMD on the cover of Captain Marvel Jr. #19. As with his colleague, Captain Marvel Jr. also seems to be thrilled to have his legs wrapped around a deadly missile. We are still not in the atomic age just yet, so this one can only do so much damage but as resident of Dresden (and Billy Pilgrim) can attest, enough non-nuclear bombs can make life pretty miserable. Although Mac Raboy is certain a demi-god when it comes to cover design, I do worry about the impact CM Jr. is having on the aerodynamics of this bomb.

Obviously other publishers got their hands on Fawcett's sales figures and decided that the Dr. Strangelove covers the reason behind the success. When it comes to crazy cover adventures, no Golden Age hero comes close to Doll Man (that's a whole other blog entry, though) as can be seen on the cover to the to Feature Comics #50. Now, Doll Man has wrapped his bare legs around many strange objects, but this one likely takes the cake. Again, I'm not really sure what's going here as Doll Man is sailing over the heads of the bad guys. Is he actually saving them by steering it away. Is Doll Man a traitor? Should someone tell Spin Shaw?

Finally, we see a 3rd tier publisher choose the Dr. Strangelove cover as a possible springboard for the coming of a second Golden Age. Captain Flash is perhaps no Captain Marvel, but even he found time to overcompensate for shortcomings in the loin area but hopping aboard an explosive device on the cover to Captain Flash #1. This is almost a retro cover, as it was published in the mid-50s, a decade after the above posters. As it was during the heart of the Atomic Age, the fine folks at Sterling obviously thought that a generic superhero riding an atom bomb would be enough to make them a big player. Of course, Captain Flash #1 isn't exactly Showcase #4, but Mike Sekowsky sure gave it his best with this cover. Here's a question, though - shouldn't a place named Atom City actually welcome atom bombs?


-Keller said...

Great theme Scott! Captain Marvel patting his "rocket" and Doll-Man apparently stroking his, are particularly disturbing.

Good to see you back writing!

Izbot said...

You should do one on covers where characters are straddling the barrels of cannons. There was an early World's Finest cover with Supes, Bats and Robin with these huge battleship turrets tucked between their legs. And I can remember a few DC war covers with Sgt Rock sitting on the barrel of a tank as it fired.