Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Cover That Failed!


Following a launch in early 1972 that saw its first four issues apparently competing with Marvel's Greatest Comics as a reprint title for older Fantastic Four tales, Marvel Triple Action then shifted its focus to offering reprints of The Avengers--its covers for the most part mimicking MGC in retaining the original cover art of a story, interspersed with new covers drawn by contemporary artists of the '70s. Arguably, there may have been no Avengers cover more in need of a makeover* than that of the December 1966 issue, rendered by artist Don Heck and pictured here with Rich Buckler's interpretation of its events nine years later.

*Though I'd put the cover to issue #38 in the running.

As we can see, there are two schools of thought as to where the Avengers' fight with the Living Laser comes to a head. On the right, we see a deadly struggle taking place on a bridge in New York City--while on the left, our heroes are on the defensive with the Laser in the Central American country of Costa Verde (a locale which may sound familiar to you from another '70s story). Both covers retain the captions featured on the original--the title referring to Goliath sabotaging the Laser's powerful laser cannon, while Goliath's big change has him regaining his size-changing powers after becoming trapped at ten feet not long after rejoining the team.

While both covers have their peculiarities, it's the original which seems most in need of improvement. Even those behind the scenes in production seemed to recognize that, with what appears to be a last-minute substitution of the Captain America figure with one drawn by Jack Kirby, taken from an issue of Tales Of Suspense published in the same month:

As for the other figures, little thought has been given to what everyone is supposed to be doing (with the exception of the Laser's aggression). Even the Kirby figure's positioning is poorly chosen, having been dislodged (presumably by the Laser) from the cliff, with the Laser either opening fire on Cap's shield or Cap blocking the blast, both superfluous at this point. In the Laser's case, he's already sent Cap plummeting--why continue to fire at his target, much less at the wrong angle? And why should Cap worry about blocking a blast that would miss him?

And speaking of angles, who or what is Hawkeye aiming at? This marksman isn't going to hit the Laser at the angle he's positioned--maybe goons unseen off to the left? That leaves Goliath, who makes a great target for the Laser with his back turned to him; but at the moment, we can't be sure whether he's trying to save Cap, or if he's the one who threw Cap off the ledge in the first place.

On the MTA cover, Buckler's depiction is actually representative of the events taking place in the prior issue's story. But while the activities of the Laser and the Avengers are in the vicinity of the bridge, our motorists are only in the line of fire insofar as an attack by the Laser from miles away, and Buckler taking just a tad of artistic license with presenting a battle scene (and a bridge disaster) that never occurred.

Obviously Buckler is making better use of Cap's shield--but since we've already spent a good deal of time piling on and detracting from the merits of each of these covers, this may not be the time to mention the fact that Cap really has no shield to use at this point, given that his one-of-a-kind, indestructible shield was earlier destroyed by the Laser. (Buck up, Cap! Is that why you're jumping off a cliff?)


Colin Jones said...

Yes, the original cover could be interpreted as Goliath pushing Cap off the cliff and the "Big Change In Goliath" might imply he's turned evil which explains his behaviour!

Comicsfan said...

Colin, try to cut the man some slack--I think Henry Pym will develop enough behavioral problems without turning the corner and becoming purely evil!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon a fairly large cache of used reprints in an old hippie bookstore in the '80's. Which is weird, now that I think about it, because all those used comics were reprints. Not an original in the lot. Go figure. Marvel Triple Action, Marvel Spectacular, Marvel's Greatest Comics (Lee and Kirby, yippee!) Marvel Tales, etc, etc.
Like I said, weird.
But for a kid who couldn't have afforded to buy used copies of the originals, or even find them back then, it was the fabled motherlode. They were a quarter a pop, I think, so it took me a while to buy 'em all up on a dishwasher's salary. Got a lotta fun outta them comics.
But yeah, the covers were hit and miss. Sometimes they used art from the original cover and I preferred that (particularly when it was a Kirby cover).
That comic reviewed here though, it kinda needed a "makeover"!


Comicsfan said...

M.P., I had a bookstore like that in my old neighborhood, where fairly recent comics were literally tossed on a pile and a marker had crossed through the original price and brought them down a nickel or dime. At the time I'd thought, "What a deal!", well before any thoughts of collecting or in what condition I'd want them. Most of those issues I've since replaced with the genuine article, but I'm sure I still have three or four of them even after all this time. Helps keep me grounded! :)

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

For me, Avengers covers #31-44 are all poor, partly due to someone's (Stan's?) obsession with Goliath. After that though there's a great run of covers. #105 may be the next clunker.

Kid said...

In the same way that when some character punches another in a pic, the guy being punched is halfway across the room while the puncher still has his arm and fist extended, surely it's the Lazer's beam which has propelled Cap off the cliff? Y'know, in an 'artistic licence' kinda way? It's not meant to suggest that the Lazer has fired again once Cap has been propelled over the edge.

Comicsfan said...

dangermash, I'm with you on most of those, though I'd probably pull out 33, 36, and 44 from the listing. You certainly raise a fair point about Goliath, but, on a cover that features a number of characters (including the villain(s) and often the rest of the Avengers), I suppose it's difficult not to place him anywhere but in the thick of things.

Kid, it's an interesting analogy on the laser's strike, but I'll have to stand by my opinion on the subject. (Particularly with a "pasted in" Captain America figure in the mix!) :D

Big Murr said...

Taking dangermash's word on the over-use of Goliath, I have a guess as to why: marketing. Comic book covers are there to sell the comic. This period of the Avengers had nobody with powers to excite the eye and dazzle the imagination. Every super comic has people in colourful costumes, so you need more to entice the kid to part with his allowance. A guy with a bow? Another with a shield? A woman in red striking a pointy-pose? The Wasp has wings and can fly, but featuring a bug on a cover is a tricky proposition. What's left? A giant.

But man, THIS cover is just bad. The Buckler redo ain't a lot better. Still and all, it's truth in advertising because the interior story is equally weak tea.

Kid said...

Well, like you say, why would the Lazer/Laser continue to fire - or fire again - (and at the wrong angle) having already dislodged Cap? It's those very reasons that would suggest we're seeing the 'cause and effect' of The Laser's/Lazer's beam. Covers are usually symbolic anyway, an example being who tied up Mr. Fantastic on the cover of FF #1? It was merely a way of demonstrating Reed's stretching ability. Incidentally, could Hawkeye be a 'paste-up' here?

Comicsfan said...

Murray, excellent rationale vis-a-vis Goliath. And Kid, I was thinking the same thing about Hawkeye! (And frankly I wondered about Goliath!)