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ACTION! MYSTERY! THRILLS!

Action! Mystery! Thrills! Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age, 1933-1945
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Foreword by Ty Templeton
208 8x10.5-inch pages
color
2011 Fantgraphics
paperback
$29.99

This selection of 176 funnybook covers from the medium’s most flamboyant period tells us visually more convincingly than anything else we’re likely to read what that Golden Age was like. Action, thrills, funny animals and scantily clad bathing beauties galore are on display. Even Templeton, who begins by arguing that the “golden age” is idiosyncratic — peculiar to everyone’s twelfth year — finally, after considering the work of such artists as Alex Schomburg, Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Charles Biro, Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Walt Kelly, Mac Raboy, Sheldon Mayer, Joe Shuster, Bill Everett, L.B. Cole, Ed Ashe and others, agrees that the age was golden after all.

ActionThrills0001Apart from the sheer pyrotechnical riot of color and composition and anatomy, the book’s footnotes by Sadowski are virtually a thumbnail history of the Golden Age. For each book cover, he supplies issue number, date, and name of artist — plus a short paragraph about the artist or the publisher. For instance: the cover on the left is by Sheldon Mayer, drawn for the first title of a publishing enterprise formed by William Cook and John Mahon after they left Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied in 1936; the title was The Comics Magazine, but the subtitle, Funny Pages, soon elbowed the less exciting denomination off the cover. At the right, is a cover the work of Jimmy Thompson, “the first notable African-American artist/writer in comic books,” says Sadowski. “His Indian tales were well researched, sensitively written, ad displayed a high level of draftsmanship.” He was best known for his 1940s Robotman for DC.

On the left, below, is a Jack Kirby cover — vibrant action, radiant sex appeal. And finally, on the right, the punchline for this review — Gus Ricca’s portrait of cover artists such as he, at the end of his rope for a cover idea.

ActionThrills0002

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