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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 12/03/2006

All right, faithful readers (and also those of you reading this column for the first time), welcome to another edition of "Cover Stories!"

This week's theme? "He's Dead, Jim!" Yes, I'm revisiting a previous theme once again! In case you didn't read the previous installment, this theme features covers in which one of the title characters appears to be dead!

To start things off, here's Challengers of the Unknown 55!

Challengers of the Unknown 55

This cover is rather... grim, isn't it? Plus, we've got the Challengers wearing their rather garish yellow-and-orange outfits that never worked for me (give me their classic purple jumpsuits any day!). And is it just me, or does Rocky look rather apelike here?

As you can see "Red" Ryan is the apparently dead member on this cover... note that his tombstone identifies the year of his passing, but no mention of his birth year (I guess that's better than the usual puff of smoke or plants covering the birth year we usually see in comics).

The cover art for this issue was penciled and inked by Bob Brown, whom most of us are probably familiar with mainly for his Superboy work in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Interesting that the guy had been working for DC since 1951, and did great work at Marvel and another company or two (he worked on part of the original Avengers-Defenders War), yet I don't recall ever reading an interview with him anywhere, nor do I recall reading any kind of discussion of his career anywhere!

Of course, it's possible that I've just missed it, and one of you fair readers hasn't, so you could point me in the direction of any interviews or discussions, okay?

The story within, "Taps for Red," was written by Arnold Drake (perhaps more famously known for his writing on The Doom Patrol, although he also wrote some X-Men issues, if I recall correctly) with Bob Brown art. In the story, Red Ryan "dies" as the Challengers battle the Challenger Haters and Villo (yes, that's right, I wrote "The Challenger Haters" - I guess "Challenger Revenge Squad" would've been too close to the "Superman Revenge Squad").


Detective Comics 374

OK, I have to say that in many ways, this is probably one of my favorite Detective Comics covers of the 1960s... it's issue 374, and chances are, if you've seen as many "South Park" episodes as I have, you are also half-expecting to see Kyle or one of the other characters (honestly, I forget which one, as it's been way too long since I have seen the show) calling Batman a name which would seem to indicate that his parents weren't married! (Well, this is a family column, isn't it? Wouldn't want to say the actual word, y'know).

This cover was by Irv Novick, whose work on Batman and Flash is some of my favorite stuff from the 1970s (hey, what can I say? When I was a kid, I wasn't accustomed to seeing Infantino on Flash... much less Neal Adams on Batman!).

By the way... this isn't a fake Robin on this cover... but he isn't dead, either. He's "just" been badly beaten, and in the story, Batman is on the hunt for Robin's would-be killer.

As much as I like Novick's work, though... the real treat is inside, where "Hunt for a Robin-Killer!" was written by Gardner Fox with art by Gil Kane and Sid Greene! In case you want to read this story yourself, and you can't afford a copy of the original, it was reprinted in Batman #257 (not that those 100-Page Super-Spectaculars are all that much cheaper!).

Also in this issue was the Elongated Man in "The Amazing Crook-Catcher!" by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Sid Greene. Presumably, that story will be reprinted if DC ever publishes a "Showcase Presents The Elongated Man" Vol. 2!

Flash 171

This has definitely got to be one of those covers where Julius Schwartz commissioned the cover first, and then challenged one of his writers to come up with a story behind it! This is the cover for issue 171, and it's a bizarre image, isn't it? The only way anyone can tell that the people aren't completely ignoring Barry Allen's lifeless form is that the teenager is stepping very broadly over the corpse (presumably the dog will just walk over the body).

And I guess that "No Parking" sign really does only apply to motorized vehicles, eh? And surely you don't need me to tell you that this cover was by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, do you?

Inside, "Here Lies the Flash - Dead and Unburied" was by Gardner Fox, Infantino, and Sid Greene. This story was part of the overall storyline that bounced from DC book to DC book in which Doctor Light, trying to avenge himself on the Justice League, decided to attack individual members in their own titles.

Secret Society 7

And you knew there had to be a cover with Superman here somewhere, eh? Here he is, apparently dead, thanks to the Secret Society of Super Villains (issue 7)... killed by a trio of sinister sorcerers (that's Felix Faust on the left, and the Wizard from Earth-2 on the right... I believe the guy in the middle is the Matter Master).

Don't worry, kids, Superman's not really dead... in fact, it's not even Superman on this cover... it's Gregory Reed, who was a semi regular character in the 1970s as an actor who played Superman in movies (sort of the comics version of Christopher Reeve).

This cover was by Rich Buckler with Joe Rubenstein inks. Buckler also did the art on the interior story, "Luthor's League of Super-Villains," which was written by Bob Rozakis with inks by Bob Layton.

If you want to read a synopsis of this issue, I invite you to go check out -- which discusses that specific issue - or -- which indexes nearly the entire history of the Secret Society of Super-Villains!

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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09/16/2007Installment 123: Comics Never Made - Drive-In Movie Classics and Fantastic Film Classics
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