Friday, May 09, 2008

BEHOLD! The slightly iconic and somewhat classic cover for Marvel Super-Heroes #20, which (if memory serves) was the first time one of Marvel's 60's badguys got a feature story and cover. Well, "Madame" Medusa was featured in #15, but by then she was more of an Inhuman and less one-quarter of the Frightful Four.

Something's bugging me about this cover, though, and I'll get to it in just a minute, after I set it up.

Someone over at scans_daily posted the story in its entirety this evening, giving me occasion to read it again for the first time in ages...probably since I first picked it up on the magazine rack at Caverna Drugs in Horse Cave when I was age 9 out of curiosity. Looking at it again, it's really not the best sort of showcase that Marvel's (arguably) premiere arch villain deserved. Written and penciled by Stan's bro Larry Lieber, with pencil assistance from longtime inker Frank Giacoia, and with inks credited to Vince (the Eraser) Colletta, it's a grubby-looking, episodic story which assays an attempt by B-list badguy Diablo to blackmail Doom into joining up with him to steal his time machine (under military guard) and, of course, conquer the world. It reads like Lieber's making it up as he goes along, and ends with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang. I can see why I most likely skimmed over it when I was a lad and didn't buy. In fact, I don't think I've ever actually owned a copy.

Also somewhat interestingly, this was the last issue of this title to feature an all-new lead story; the title began as Fantasy Masterpieces, which featured mostly Golden Age and Atlas/Timely stuff, and for about a year served to showcase several second-string characters in the hopes one of them would stick like the Black Knight and Ka-Zar. The next issue, #21, began X-Men reprints, paired with Daredevil, then Iron Man and DD, then ended up being a vehicle to reprint Hulk and Sub-Mariner until it got cancelled in 1982.

OK, now that I've rambled a bit, here's my question. This cover. Who drew it? There's no credit on the cover itself; GCD info says it was Lieber and Giacoia. Thing is, it doesn't look like Lieber and Giacoia, especially when you compare it to the interior art. It's just too dynamic, too striking an image with its slightly receding, camera-on-the-floor perspective shot of Victor Von exulting in some sort of real or imagined triumph, his outstretched arms partially obscuring the logo- a lot more indicative of the type of covers that the innovators of the era there were doing, your Sterankos, Adamses and your Gene Colans. In fact, if you ask me, I think that's who did this cover in the first place- Colan. It's got his trademark fluid perspective and loosey-goosey rendering style, and all the celestial spheres and orbs remind me a lot of the types of covers he was providing for Doctor Strange at about that time. John Buscema is another suspect. Aaah, for all I know it may be Lieber, but...I just don't know.

Anyway, what do you think? Any comics historian-types out there that might have an educated guess?

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