Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Only Cool Cover From This Week's Comics?

Punisher: Frank Castle Max #72
Last night I searched every comic book publisher's site I could think of looking for some new and notable cover art. Except for the cover to Runaways: Teenage Wasteland Vol. 2 that I highlighted here a couple of weeks ago, this was the only cover that caused me to stop and stare. The art was done by Dave Johnson, who's probably known to most funnybook fans for his covers to the recently completed comic book noir, 100 Bullets. Johnson's long run on that book seems to have honed his skills, making him a master at creating simple, seedy, lurid layouts. Looking at his recent Punisher covers, I'm reminded of Saul Bass' movie posters, Jim Steranko's psychedelic splash pages, and Will Eisner's title pages to The Spirit, yet there's no obvious aping or 'homages' to any of these. Perhaps it's these artists' shared gift for distilling a story's plot, characters, mood and location into an instantly readable and indelibly searing image. You could have never read a Punisher book in your life, but just by glancing at these covers, you know you're gonna get a vile, violent crime story starring a thoroughly beat-down badass. Is it subtle? No. But then, it's not supposed to be.

(Psst, HarperCollins. I know you've forgotten my last couple of birthdays, but I still want to offer you this free bit of unsolicited advice: Hire Dave Johnson to do the covers the next time you re-issue Elmore Leonard's novels. Just look at that cover to Punisher #72. It wouldn't take much re-working for that to make the perfect cover to Maximum Bob. And what about #69? Change the skull to a sneer and the Punisher to a 50-something year old guy in a rumpled polo shirt and you've got your cover to Freaky Deaky. Best of all, Johnson probably charges a helluva a lot less money than the hucksters you've currently got photoshopping your crime fic covers. I mean, he works for Marvel, doesn't he? They're hardly known for spoiling their talent.)