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Cover Stories by Jon B. Knutson
Jon Knutson presents comic book covers with a common theme
and relates any information and comments about them.

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COVER STORIES for 02/12/2006

Welcome to this 40th edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!

So... you're wondering what this week's theme is? It's... "Charge!" Yes, that classic cavalry call!

And now you're wondering, "What the heck does that mean? Is he going to post a bunch of covers with General Custer and/or the cavalry?" Now, would I do that to you? Well, okay, maybe I would - if I found, oh, a cover with the cavalry and Wonder Woman, because, you know... there's that DC History ( mailing list "truism" that for any conceivable cover theme, there's at least one cover featuring Wonder Woman that fits it (and aren't you tired of reading about that by now?)...

But no, that's not what I mean by "Charge!" And it's not covers with people using credit cards, either!

All right, all right, you're going to just scroll down if I keep this up any longer... "Charge!" is a theme featuring a group of characters running towards the reader! This was a very popular cover concept, one that's been used time and time again - especially for super-teams! Probably the most recent one (at least, the most recent one you'd ever see me use in this column - and I'm not... at least not this time) that you'd be familiar with is Giant-Size X-Men #1, but I'd imagine it's been used many times since then.

But enough blathering... you want to see the covers, right?

Action Comics 52

Here's a classic "Charge!" cover, and one that's been reprinted time and time again... it's from Action Comics 52 (and it causes me to think that Action had a cover for nearly every theme, too), and it was done by Fred Ray. Naturally, Superman leads the charge, but you can also see on this cover the Americommando (formerly Mr. America), the original Vigilante, Zatara, and Congo Bill! I don't know that the plans flying above them were supposed to represent any character or characters in particular... that was probably just there to tie in with the "Keep 'Em Flying!" blurb in the lower right corner (marking this as a WWII-era comic).

Now, if you were lucky enough to own this comic book, you could crack it open and read the Superman tale, "The Emperor of America," written by Jerry Siegel, in which the Emperor uses a non-resistance ray to take over the USA (could this possibly be the first Imaginary Story, even if it wasn't referred to as such?). Now, doesn't that plot sound familiar? I recognize it as being used, more or less, in a Marvel Graphic Novel, Emperor Doom. You can also read this story reprinted in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 3, which credits the art to Ed Dobrotka. The Grand Comics Database, however - particularly crack art credit gurus Craig Delich and Bob Hughes - disagrees, crediting John Siekla with the art.

This was followed by Superman of the U.S. Army featuring "Sky Fighter," a one-page filler with art by Cliff Young, then Vigilante in "Sing a Song of Six Guns" (great title, that!) by Joe Samachson, Mort Meskin and Cliff Young (and apparently also features Vig's origin, when he tells it to Stuff, the Chinatown Kid). Then we've got the half-page filler "Private Pete" by Henry Boltinoff, then the Three Aces in "The Battle of a Thousand Years" (hmmm... I guess the planes on the cover must've been these guys) by Louis Cazeneuve. Americommando is next in "The Case of the Stolen Spectacles" by Joseph Greene and Bernard Baily, then the text story "Wolf Hunt" by Tex Slade, followed by a Little Gertie filler, then Congo Bill in "The One Man Army" by Fred Ray, another "Private Pete" filler, another filler simply called "Laffs," and then Zatara in "Crime on Ice" by Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman!

Aside from the Superman story, none of the stories in this issue have been reprinted anywhere... although to be honest, I don't see that big a demand for them (unless, oh, they were going to publish a Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives and include the solo stories of the Soldiers, too).

All Star 14

And here's the inevitable cover with Wonder Woman, courtesy of All Star Comics #14! This is a very nice cover... even if it features a lot of JSA members running through the air who shouldn't - but then, it is a symbolic cover, right?

Just in case you're not up on your JSA'ers... from the left, this cover features Johnny Thunder (with no Thunderbolt in sight), Dr. Mid-Nite, the Spectre, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Starman, The Sandman, the Atom, and Dr. Fate. Kind of looks like Sandman was added in at the last minute, doesn't it?

This cover is credited to Joe Gallagher... but I'm guessing that some figures may have been partially traced or statted from interior artwork (just a hunch... or maybe the Wonder Woman figure, at least, was retouched by someone else).

If you aren't lucky enough to have ever read a Golden Age Justice Society story, there's something you need to understand: There was a definite pattern to just about all the stories. The first part would feature the entire gang, as they find out about some problem or menace. This would be followed by individual chapters featuring the individual members (often drawn by the artists who did their solo comics stories), with a final chapter in which the gang got together again to deal with it once and for all!

That was the case with "Food for Starving Patriots," written by Gardner Fox, one of DC's best writers, ever! Joe Gallagher did the art for the Introduction, which was a mere 3 pages in length! From there, it was on to Chapter 1, starring Hawkman, with art by Sheldon Moldoff, then Chapter 2 had Starman with art by Lou Ferstadt, the Atom took the lead in Chapter 3, with art by Gallagher, as did Dr. Fate in Chapter 4 with Howard Sherman art. Adolf Hitler had a cameo in Chapter 4, too!

Chapter 5 starred Dr. Mid-Nite with art by Stan Aschmeier, Chapter 6 starred the Spectre with art by Pierce Rice and Bernard Baily... then things are interrupted by a Hop Harrigan text story, "The Statue of Buddha." Chapter 7 picks things up again with Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt with Stan Aschmeiler art, Sandman starred in Chapter 8 (with his side-kick Sandy the Golden Boy) rewritten by Jack Kirby, with art by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (with Howard Ferguson inks), and then the wrap-up chapter, with art by Joe Gallagher.

Yes, that's right... Wonder Woman didn't even get a chapter of her own!

This story was reprinted in the All Star Archives, Vol. 3.

All Winners 6

OK, I know I use a lot of DC Comics covers in this column... so here's a decidedly non-DC cover... from All Winners Comics #6, with the original Human Torch, Toro, Captain America, Bucky, and the Sub-Mariner... and they're stepping on the heads of Mussolini, Hitler, and Tojo, to boot!

I have no idea what the heck is up with those flags the side-kicks are carrying, though... it's completely bizarre! I guess we can blame Al Avison for them... he's the tentatively identified artist for this book. And that's about all the creator information the Grand Comics Database has on this book!

Within its pages, you'd be able to read The Human Torch in "Hot Stamp Mob," the Destroyer in "The Stone-Man Slayer," a Captain America story, a Black Avenger tale, and the Sub-Mariner epic "Spies Use Their Heads!"

And no, I have no idea why the Destroyer and the Black Avenger didn't make the cover spot.

Got time to check out one last "Charge!" cover? Here it is, friends:

Americas Greatest 1

Yes, it's America's Greatest Comics #1... and it was certainly a more impressive line-up than we had for the Action cover leading off this column... and if you're not up on your Fawcett/Earth-S characters, they are, from left to right, Spy Smasher, Bulletman, Captain Marvel (I hope you at least recognized him!), Minute-Man, and Mr. Scarlet. There's two other things I want to point out on this cover... first, the price... 15 cents, 50% more than the average comic of the time! But wait... look at the page count... 100 beefy pages! Then again, weren't most comics of this time 64 pages for a dime? That's 36 pages for another nickel... so it's a pretty good deal, isn't it?

Now, I realize that even if you recognize these guys, you may not be that familiar with what their shtick was - so, in short...

Spy Smasher - Well, he smashes spies, naturally! He was a non-powered hero, and there was even a movie serial made featuring him!

Bulletman - Jim Barr invented the special helmet he wears that allowed him to fly, and it also attracted bullets shot at him! Later, he would be joined by Bulletgirl and Bulletdog (so help me god, I'm not kidding about the latter character).

Captain Marvel - Yeah, right, like I need to explain the Big Red Cheese?

Minute-Man - To be honest, I'm not that familiar with him, either... save that he was a soldier who would lose his uniform and don his red-white-and-blue outfit to fight the Nazis.

Mr. Scarlet - Sort of Fawcett's Batman/Green Hornet/Crimson Avenger character. He had a sidekick named Pinky - and no, you wouldn't be the first to joke about his sexual orientation!

Mac Raboy (best known for his work on Captain Marvel Jr.) did the cover art for this issue. Inside, Captain Marvel starred in "Ghost of the Deep" by C.C. Beck, followed by Bulletman in "The Riddle of the ages" by Raboy, the text story "Death Doesn't Whisper" by Joseph J. Millard, "Minute Man Meets Mr. Skeleton" by Phil Bard, a Chubby filler by Tom McNamara, Spy Smasher in "The Coming of America-Smasher" by Charles Sultan, and Mr. Scarlet in "The Death Battalion" by Don Rico!

Wow... this ended up being quite the lengthy column, didn't it?

Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !

Jon B. Knutson

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