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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 02/19/2006

Welcome to this 41st edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!

This time around, the theme is "At the Circus," and were there a lot of circus covers to choose from! When I originally posted covers with this theme on the DC History list (, even posting six to ten covers a day, it took me a week or more to show all the ones I had, so you can be sure I'll be revisiting this theme in the future (anyone out there reading this up for a month of circus covers sometime? Write me at and let me know!)

No Wonder Woman circus covers this time around (but trust me, they're out there!), and there will be an Action Comics cover... but just for variety, let's start with Captain Marvel Adventures 34!

Captain Marvel Adventures 34

As the cover states, Captain Marvel visits Oklahoma City in this issue... and before I get into more details about this issue, let me tell you a little something about this whole concept. You see, back in the Big Red Cheese's heyday, there was an entire series of Captain Marvel stories in which he traveled from his home town to various cities around the USA... and in said stories, he'd pass by familiar landmarks, and even interact with some actual people from the city, usually a mayor. I'm sure that readers who lived in the cities he visited got a kick out of seeing their home town featured in a story by their favorite hero!

Anyway... about this cover... as you can see, Cap's posing with a clown, Uncle Ed, whom I'm guessing was a real clown. Clowns, naturally, are a big attraction at any circus (well, except for at least one particular clown, but we're not talking about him in this column... at least, not this time around... and I'm sure you know who I mean), and each one strives to be quite a bit different from the others. I think this one managed to be pretty different, don't you? And talented, as well... able to balance on his head perched on Captain Marvel's head while the Big Red Cheese is flying!

This issue was chock-full of good stuff, beginning with the C.C. Beck cover (probably inked by Pete Costanza). Beck and Costanza also did the art on the cover story, "Captain Marvel In Oklahoma City," which is available in Shazam From the Forties to the Seventies - well, "available" may not be the word for it, given how pricey that volume is these days, if you're lucky enough to find it!

That was followed by Little Sneezer in "Spooks" by Bert Whitman, then "Captain Marvel, Sportsman," by Otto Binder and Beck. Then there was the obligatory text story, "Friday, the 13th," by Rob Reed (no relation to Robby Reed, of Dial B for Blog ( - a great website, by the way!), then a Sergeant Sandy filler, then it's back to Captain Marvel in "the Jealous Magician" with art by Beck, Captain Kid in "The Magician" by Al Liederman, and then, finally, "The Monster Society of Evil Ch. 13: The Floating Terror," by Binder and Beck!

The Monster Society of Evil story is a classic serial... and has been written about probably more than any other Captain Marvel story, most notably in the classic All In Color For a Dime. This entire story was reprinted in one volume lo, these many years ago, but that book would set you back so much, you'd think the earlier-referenced "Shazam From the 40s to the 70s" was cheap by comparison!

Often, when this story is mentioned these days, it's with the wish that DC would reprint this saga in a single volume for the modern market... and it's a wish I have, too!

Adventure Comics 220

Now, we move on to the first of two Adventure Comics covers for this theme... this one, Adventure 220, not only features Superboy, but also his super-dog, Krypto! Now, I'll have to admit... I'm always happy when I can include a Krypto cover in this column, as my white boxer is also named Krypto, and he looks a lot like this rendition here before he morphed into a pseudo spotless Dalmatian/white greyhound that's the version most Silver Age comics fans are familiar with.

So, here they are, performing in a circus... and is this really all that amazing a trick? I mean, they are both invulnerable, after all, so the fire can't affect them... and is Superboy really using super-balance to stay on one finger there, or is he simply flying along in a weird position? Still, I'd bet the crowd enjoyed the show.

This cover was penciled by Curt Swan, with inks by Stan Kaye. The cover story, "The Greatest Show on Earth," was written by Otto Binder (wow, there's that name again... yep, after Fawcett folded its comics, Otto went to DC, and wrote for the Superman family of characters!), penciled by Swan, and inked by George Klein. In this story, Krypto's existence was revealed to the world (I guess Kal-El had a habit of hiding other super-people from Krypton until he felt they were ready, although I don't believe Krypto had to wait as long as Supergirl did!).

But of course, there was more than Superboy in this issue... Aquaman appeared in "The Coward and the Hero," by Jack Miller and Ramona Fradon (a story reprinted in Action Comics #404), then Martin Naydel contributed a Superman Puzzle Game, aided by Al Plastino. "How To Teach Your Dog Tricks," mentioned on the cover, was the text page, and was by Miller with Raymond Perry. Up next was the Binky PSA, "The Best Present of All," by Jack Schiff and Win Mortimer, followed by "The Arrows From Outer Space" starring Green Arrow, by George Papp, and a Little Pete filler by Murray Boltinoff.

Adventure Comics 145

And, as this Adventure #145 cover shows, Superboy had a history with circuses... here he is as a One Man Circus (how they expected anyone to pay a nickel for this, when he's performing out in the open, is anyone's guess). The artist for this cover is unidentified.

Within this comic, Superboy stars in "The Holiday Highjackers" by Edmond Hamilton and John Siekela, Green Arrow appears in "The Diary of a Desperado" by Otto Binder and George Papp, Aquaman meets "The Sea Hitch-Hiker" by Binder and John Daly, Shining Knight stars in "The Legend of the Flying Warrior" with art by Ruben Moreira, and Johnny Quick speeds his way through "My Kingdom for a Picture" by Binder and Dan Barry (wow, Binder wrote nearly the whole book, didn't he?).

Action Comics 166

And here's an Action cover, from issue #166. And I'll admit... at first glance it doesn't appear to be a circus cover (more like a zoo cover), until you look at the base the lion is standing on... and that pegs it for the circus! Win Mortimer did the art on this cover... and doesn't that lion look more than ready for Lois to stick her head in his mouth?

The inside front cover featured Binky in a PSA, "The Team's the Thing" by Jack Schiff and Bob Oksner, then we have the cover story, "The Three Scoops of Death" by Wayne Boring (pencils) and Stan Kaye (inks). This is followed by a Susie filler, then Tommy Tomorrow in "The Earthbound Planeteer" by Curt Swan and John Fischetti, Congo Bill in "Mission to Malaya" by Jack Miller and Ed Smalle, and a Professor Eureka filler by Henry Boltinoff! But wait, there's more! Vigilante meets "The Trickster of Deep River county" by Bob Brown, and there's another Boltinoff filler, "Varsity Vic!"

As I said at the start of this installment, there are a lot of circus covers in comics... so you can look forward to more in the future!

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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Recent Installments:
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10/14/2007Installment 127: Comics Never Made - Drive-In Movie Classics and Fantastic Film Classics
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09/30/2007Installment 125: 1-10 - Challengers of the Unknown!
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09/16/2007Installment 123: Comics Never Made - Drive-In Movie Classics and Fantastic Film Classics
09/09/2007Installment 122: Reader Challenge - a reader gave me four comic book covers, and challenged me to come up with the theme!
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08/19/2007Installment 119: 1-10 - Captain Marvel Adventures!
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08/05/2007Installment 117: Carnival
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