Thursday, October 30, 2008

Split-Face Covers

Last week's Time Magazine cover featuring Barack Obama made me think of similar comic book covers. I'll call them Split-Face Covers - any cover featuring a close up of a face with two sides to it. You know, just like those creepy NBA Playoff ads from last year. There are also covers where a body has been split - but that's another subgenre that I'll save those for later. Let's take a look at a few of my favourites.

Let's start with the Incredible Hulk #241.The Hulk is a natural choice for a Split-Face Cover because of the whole Jekyll & Hyde nature of the Banner/Hulk relationship. I'm actually surprised that they waited until 1979 to do one. They must have been spurred on by the Hulk TV show, which featured the Bixby/Ferrigno split. Overall, this is a pretty weak effect by Al Milgrom - as it is absent of any 'mood'. That's too bad, because while Milgrom isn't exactly my favourite cover artist, he did some nice work during this era.

Next up is House of Mystery #173, a cover from the height of DC's Silver Age lunacy. Keep in mind that the 'Dial H for Hero' era at House of Mystery was about as far from the horror/mystery genre as you could get, but this cover actually tries to be a little creepy, or perhaps even eerie. It the last issue before it fully reverts back to horror with issue #174. Hmmm.... that has me thinking. Maybe this book is the true end to the Silver Age. I'll have to revise my rants over at Comics Should Be Good. Anyhow, back to the Jack Sparling cover. Personally, I still think that the 'G'ood side still looks a little evil.

Ok, back to Marvel with the cover to Captain America #298. I must admit that I've never read this book so I really can't tell you anything about the story (although I take it that's it has a Red Skull origin), but it is sooooo much better than the Milgrom Hulk cover. The dark background and the various vignettes really infuse it with some serious atmosphere. I love how Paul Neary pays loving tribute to the Kirby/Heck cover to Tales of Suspense #80, one of may favourite Marvel covers from the 60s. This is how to do an effective Split-Face cover!

Finally, we arrive with the grandaddy of them all, Justice League of America #61. OK, this is a bit different from the others as there are several faces, but how can you possibly not love this Mike Sekowsky classic. The choice of villains is always what makes me laugh here. Batman and the Penguin makes perfect sense, as do the Superman/Luthor and Flash/Captain Boomerang pairings. What is up with J'onn and Doctor Light? I guess the green guy didn't have an arch-enemy and had to take on a JLA villain, but isn't he even more of an Atom villain? It also shows you the real gap in quality villains at DC at the time - Cutlass Charlie and Mr. IQ? Come on, couldn't they have borrowed from the Flash or Batman? I don't use the word classic very often (ok, that's not true - I use it incessantly), but this one is a true classic.
Do you have any favourite Split-Face Covers?


M W Gallaher said...

As anyone who's read Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter can tell you, J'onn J'onzz DID have an arch enemy:
Biff Benson.
Seriously, like every third installment, JJ faces a generic thug named "Biff Benson". They all looked different, but I think they're all from the same family, anyway, carrying on a legacy of crime from their ancestor Bensons (including the many "Gat" Bensons) who plagued earlier mystery men like The Spectre, Hour Man, and Dr. Fate).

Mike DeLisa said...

Don't forget Blue Beetle #5 -- Ditko works in a split face on the central sculpture between Beetle and his foe!