Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The covers that got away

I love looking at comic book covers from the Silver Age. They were made for the days when comics sat on the spinner rack for a few days, then poof, gone forever! Covers had to grab kid eyeballs and convince them the book was worth buying β€” way, way more worthy than the one sitting in the next slot over.

While my primary motive for buying a given issue was if it belonged to one of my favorite series (e.g., Justice League of America, the Dial H for Hero era of House of Mystery) a cool cover could still get me to buy something outside my usual range. But as I’ve mentioned before, I was limited to two comic books a week so a lot of tempting covers got a thumbs down from me. The four I’m blogging about today are onesΒ  I particularly hated passing up when they were new, but did eventually acquire, anywhere from a decade to forty years later.I wasn’t a particular fan of Aquaman as a kid, but man did I like this Nick Cardy cover. A kaiju crushing Aquaman while lightning blasts him, Aqualad stabbing the giant’s arm without effect and the ticking clock raising the question “is this his last minute of life?” (spoiler: No). If buying had been an option, I would have, in a heartbeat.

When I finally read the story in Aquaman’s third Showcase collection I found it wasn’t great, but it was good (I’m a big fan of the Haney/Cardy era so YMMV). Tryton turns out to be an ancient scientist who turned himself into a giant to construct Atlantis’ protective dome. Awakening after centuries in suspended animation, his apparent attacks are meant to show Aquaman a nuclear missile threatening Atlantis. By the story’s finish the missile is destroyed but Tryton dies, having saved his people a second time.

Mystery in Space #82 with its Carmine Infantino/Murphy Anderson cover warning of “World War on Earth and Rann” hooked me much more. It actually came out in 1963, before I started reading comics, but when I came across issues from that era I saw it in house ads and I was mesmerized.Adam Strange (I had no idea who he was, but I didn’t care) could only save one world? OMG, how could he choose? How could anyone choose? At that age I did not realize that when superheroes face a choice like that, they invariably find a way to do both, so I took the problem with great seriousness.

As it turns out Adam never does have to make the judgment call on the cover. While he’s on Rann, a villain uses an indestructible flying magnifying glass to burn Rann’s cities unless, of course, they surrender. The Zeta Beam wears off mid-adventure, leaving Adam stuck on Earth until the next one. While he’s waiting, an Earth mad scientist unleashes unstoppable, indestructible warplanes on the world. With the JLA off in space, there’s nobody but Adam to stop him; needless to say he does indeed figure out how to save two worlds.

When Showcase #60 came out I had less idea who the Spectre was than I did Adam Strange,but that Murphy Anderson cover was one cool image. The Spectre was obviously the star of the book, but he was so scary the U.S. Air Force was forced to attack him! And somewhere out in space, a red-faced dude was throwing meteors at him!

I honestly don’t know how I missed this issue, seeing as I picked up Spectre’s next two Showcase issues and the first three issues of his own book (I lost interest after they replaced Anderson with some dreadful artist named Neal Adams; in hindsight, my artistic judgment may have been flawed). I didn’t read this until years later and it proved worth the wait. The reason the Spectre has been missing out on the JSA/JLA team-ups was that he’d spent the past decade trapped in Jim Corrigan’s body. Early in the story he breaks out and tries to figure out what happened. That leads him into battle with the demonic Azmodus (red-faced dude) but not, regrettably, the U.S. Air Force. It’s a big, colorful, spectacular tale, probably my favorite of the Silver Age run.

Murphy Anderson also provides the cover for Justice League of America #45, “Super-Struggle Against Shaggy Man.” Flash and Batman getting their butts kicked, GA out cold, Atom slumped over in defeat β€” it looked like the cover copy might be right and they were going to die trying (cover copy, as you can tell, influenced me as much as the image).The story is another good one. A letter from Professor Zagarian (the Justice League’s mail is a topic I intend to blog about soon) alerts the JLA that he’s created an indestructible synthetic giant that mindlessly attacks anything in motion. A mail plane crashes so the League gets the letter two years late. They arrive to find the Shaggy Man subdued … until they set him off again. Meanwhile, a second team responding to another late letter tries to stop an alien creature siphoning materials out of the Earth’s interior. This menace is just as indestructible as Shaggy Man, so even though I knew the JLA would win, I was quite curious how (and the solution is a good one).

Of course there are lots of covers that hooked me and turned out to have dreadful stories behind them. This quartet, though, delivered on the promise.



  1. Le Messor

    I love old covers that draw you in and give you a reason to read the comics.

    I also love finding comics I used to have / read when I was a kid.

    1. Me too, to both. Though these days I’m more likely to be getting them in a TPB. Though discovering that the third Flash Omnibus only makes me seven issues short of having Barry’s entire Silver/Bronze run makes me think I’ll pick up those missing ones one at a time at some point.

      1. Le Messor

        The ‘tiny little gap’ syndrome. I know it well! πŸ˜€ (In fact, I plan to go do an order tomorrow that’ll be all about filling most of the 1-2 issue gaps in my collection; even if they’re from serieses I’m not hugely interested in. I may have a problem. :D)

        For me, I don’t care how I get it (TPB, omnibus, uber, original), as long as I get it.

    1. Le Messor

      This is weird; it shows up in my email as a response to Jim; but he isn’t on this thread. Is this comment in the wrong article? (It doesn’t answer anything on Jim’s last article, either, though.)

    1. Le Messor

      Credited to you, but in *response* to Jim. It’s the first mention of Starman on this thread that I can see; are there comments here I can’t read for some reason? (That sounds sarcastic, but it isn’t.)

  2. Dredd

    This just made me realize that I never replaced my first comics that got damaged when I was a kid. I had kept them in my toy-box (?!) at my grandfather’s and later found my Stretch Armstrong got punctured or split and leaked pink gelled corn syrup all over them.

    I believe my Marvel Premier 48 was the only one that was still readable afterwards.

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